Killer whales ram and sink sailing yacht off Gibraltar coast | World News

Orcas have sunk a yacht off the coast of Gibraltar – the latest in a string of similar attacks by the mammals over the past four years.

The Alboran Cognac sailing vessel was rammed by an unknown number of killer whales in the Strait of Gibraltar at around 9am local time on Sunday, the Spanish maritime rescue service said.

Two people were on board, who reported feeling blows to the boat’s hull and rudder before it started taking on water.

They had to be rescued by a nearby oil tanker after they radioed the coastguard for help. The pair were taken to Gibraltar for safety, while the yacht was left adrift and later sank.

There have been around 700 interactions between orcas and ships since the trend emerged in the area in May 2020, according to the research group GTOA.

They believe such attacks could be the result of the orcas’ playful curiosity or the animals confusing boats with competitors for bluefin tuna – their favourite prey.

Experts claim these incidents, which have been confined to the strait that separates Spain and Portugal from Africa, are the work of a sub-population of around 15 orcas.

In May last year, a yacht called The Mustique was severely damaged by several of the whales and had to be towed to Cadiz.

Guidelines issued by the Spanish Transport Ministry stipulate that whenever ships observe any alteration in the behaviour of orcas – such as sudden changes of direction or speed – they should leave the area as soon as possible and avoid further disturbance to the animals during the manoeuvres.

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Every interaction between a ship and an orca must be reported to authorities.

Although known as killer whales, endangered orcas are part of the dolphin family. They can measure up to eight metres long and weigh up to six tonnes as adults.

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