Iberian Orcas Attacking Boat Rudders: What Do We Know?

Iberian Orcas Attacking Boat Rudders: What Do We Know?
Iberian Orcas Attacking Boat Rudders: What Do We Know?

Since 2020, a series of unusual interactions between Iberian Orcas and various types of vessels have been observed in the waters of the Iberian Peninsula. This behavior, described as disruptive, has mainly affected sailboats and has required increased attention from marine biologists and local authorities.

Biological context of Orcas

The Orcinus Orca of the Iberian Peninsula are considered a subpopulation in danger of extinction. Presenting genetic isolation from other groups located in Norway or Iceland, these cetaceans show unique characteristics. Their disruptive behavior began to be significantly documented from 2020, involving direct physical interactions with ships.

Methodology of the study

Data collection was done through direct observations, interviews with sailors, and analysis of more than 20,000 photographs and videos. An international working group, the Orca Atlantic Working Group (GTOA), was formed to study and respond to these interactions.

Results of observations

Between 2020 and 2023, 1,031 interactions were recorded, involving physical damage to some vessels. These interactions were mainly concentrated during the months of April to October, coinciding with the migratory period of Orcas that follow schools of bluefin tuna.

Discussion of impacts

The interactions mostly involved sailboats, with notable damage to the rudders, the most vulnerable part of the vessels during these incidents. The Orcas appeared to be exploring these structures, which led to material damage that sometimes required the damaged boats to be towed.

Preventive actions and responses

Preventive measures have been put in place, including temporary navigation restrictions in high-risk areas and the dissemination of information to seafarers. However, efforts and international collaboration are still needed to develop effective responses to this unprecedented phenomenon.

conclusion and perspectives

The interactions between Orcas and ships in the Iberian Peninsula represent a complex challenge requiring multidisciplinary responses. The protection of this Orca subpopulation, while ensuring navigation safety, remains a priority. Continued research is essential to fully understand the motivations behind these behaviors and to develop strategies for harmonious coexistence between humans and these marine mammals.

The increase in interactions between Iberian Orcas and ships raises important questions about their behaviour and the best methods to manage these incidents. Continued collaboration between researchers, authorities and marine communities is crucial to ensure Orca conservation and maritime safety.

Source de l'article : https://ingenieriacivil.cedex.es/index.php/ingenieria-civil/article/view/2509


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