SPAIN has once again ordered small vessels to avoid sailing in a stretch of coast that is being terrorised by a rogue pod of killer whales.
The Ministry of transport has put the ban in place between Cape Trafalgar and Barbate off the coast of Cadiz province after a spate of recent attacks on boats by a group of orcas.
Sailors have described the ‘terrifying attacks’ which involved the mammals ramming the hull and targeting the rudder in prolonged episodes of up to an hour.
More than 50 such attacks have been reported so far this summer and at least two dozen recent incidents have resulted in damage serious enough that they vessels to be towed to shore.
It is only the second time such a ban has been put in place. Last summer Spain’s Merchant Marine agency ordered small boats to steer clear of a 60 mile stretch of coast in Galicia after more than 20 attacks.
This time round the ban has been placed on boats up to 15 metres in length several hundred miles further south towards the Strait of Gibraltar.
“Since 27 March – the date of the first encounter [this year] – the cetaceans have had 56 interactions with small sailboats, at times causing rudder failure. Up to 25 cases required the services of Spain’s maritime rescue to tow vessels into port,” the ministry said in a statement.
It comes just days after three boats were damaged within several hours on that same stretch of coast.
Scientists have been investigating the baffling behaviour which appears to be led by the same ‘teenage’ orcas instigating orchestrated ramming attacks that can last up to an hour.
One hypothesis was that the unprecedented behaviour may be some form of revenge on humans in response to an earlier perceived attack on the whales.