By Andrew Atkinson
Spain has ordered small boats to steer clear of a stretch of the country’s southern coast – following reports of dozens of incidents with Orcas.
After 25 incidents, that lead to 25 boats being towed to shore, a two-week prohibition on vessels of 15 metres or less from sailing near the coast, between Cape Trafalgar and the small town of Barbate was made.
Spain’s Ministry of Transport placed the prohibition order for the second time in 13 months, amid a spate of extraordinary orca encounters – that have baffled scientists.
Last year’s ban applied to an area several hundred miles north. At the time a Ministry spokesperson said: “The measure was prompted by the orcas involvement in several incidents in the coastal area of Galicia, mainly involving sailboats
“The recent order is to prevent further incidents with orcas. Since March 27 the cetaceans have had 56 interactions with small sailboats, at times causing rudder failure.
“25 cases required the services of Spain’s Maritime Rescue to tow vessels into port.”
Cetaceans’ sightings along the coast of Spain in July and August 2020 were made – with some incidents leading to boats spinning 180 degrees or tipped sideways.
Scientists cited stress on the endangered Gibraltar orcas as they navigate life in a major shipping route.
Food scarcity, injuries and pollution have left the population reducing to 50 individuals.
The timing of the encounters come amidst big game fishing, whale watching and fast ferries returning to the sea.
“These are very strange events – but I don’t think they are attacks,” said cetacean researcher Ezequiel Andréu Cazalla.