Pods of orcas have been attacking boats, causing damage. Then David noticed the lights of a fishing boat in the distance. In other words, they can be in sync in ways that our own brains are not wired to fathom. And they were behaving very strangely. “They just play, play and play. Killer whales have been ramming yachts and boats off the coast of Northern Spain and researchers are puzzled by their behavior. The biological puzzle of why this is happening remains an important one to solve. “It was really scary for the people, I can understand that,” says Ruth. The force that we experienced, it must have hurt them,” he says. Finally, after two hours, as unexpectedly as it started, it all went quiet. In 2010, international regulators slashed the annual catch that was permitted in the Mediterranean Sea. “They can weigh 4-5 tonnes and when they play they really play,” says Renaud. At one point, one of the larger animals came right to the stern and flipped onto its back – you could see its bright white underside.”. Be as “uninteresting” as possible, they said. But while I was on the phone I could hear them ramming the boat. 9. Sailor Victoria Morris described what she dubbed an "orchestrated" attack by a group of nine orcas which surrounded her boat and rammed it for over an hour. Most have taken place off Spain’s north-west coast, but six vessels were rammed by the mammals in the Straits of Gibraltar and five in Portuguese waters. Last year, a juvenile that he thinks is probably one of the same animals repeatedly chased his small boat with its face pushed up to the propeller of its outboard motor. Killer whales have been “attacking” sailing boats off the coasts of Spain and Portugal, in encounters one mariner said felt “totally orchestrated” and another described as “like a sledgehammer”. Later that same day, a Spanish naval yacht, Mirfak, lost part of its rudder after an encounter with orcas. Conservationists campaigned against orca captivity for decades. An hour before sunset, one of the crew called out. While Renaud still rejects the idea of vengeful orcas - or even that the killer whales want to damage the boats at all - he cites decades of research when he suggests this could be part of a cultural shift that is actually helping the animals to survive. A mysterious spate of attacks by orca whales on boats off Spain's coast has prompted authorities to ban people setting sail from the country's northwestern tip. As the wheel spun back and forth, he thought the animals might be about to dislodge the rudder stock - a steering column through the hull of the boat. … “I’ve seen them hunting,” says Renaud. Forget Jaws — this time it’s personal … for orcas. Sailors were reporting orcas ramming their … “If they see that they have the power to move something really big, maybe that’s really impressive for them.”. “I was definitely preparing to ask the Portuguese coastguard to send a helicopter to get us off.”. Males though will wander off, mixing and mating among other pods. A group of rogue killer whales has been attacking boats off the coast of Spain and Portugal, and it is getting worse and worse, experts said. Since July, experts have recorded over thirty attacks on small boats. A pod of orcas moving toward a boat in northern Spain Credit: Newsflash. “If you look at how they respond to one another when they’re in a pod or a group - there’s a seamlessness to their interaction.”. In September, the researchers started gathering evidence. Heavy boat traffic along the Iberian coastline and severe overfishing in the region may have caused additional stress to the animals, which are usually known to be more curious and playful than aggressive during encounters with humans. 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They seemed to be going for the rudder, the wheel would just start spinning really fast every time there was an impact.”. “But touching them and causing damage? “They love it. I just thought people were scared and were misinterpreting what was happening.”. “The noise was really scary. Neuroscientist Lori Marino, president of the Whale Sanctuary Project, is one of the few people to have seen inside the brain of a killer whale. “The thing is - we don’t know what came first, the injury or the first incident with a boat.”. Renaud has seen signs of concerning behaviour whilst out on his own boat. “I've seen these orcas grow from babies, I know their life stories, I've never seen or heard of attacks,” University of Seville marine biologist Rocio Espada said. Vessels warned not to approach and report any contact to authorities. Three orcas rammed a boat off the coast of Spain as it was travelling to Scotland. They don’t just see the world, they hear it, echolocating and building a picture of their world based on a stream of visual and acoustic information that is all processed at the same time. And the number of “thefts” from the boats has also gone up. Lori says humans cannot even be expected to imagine how killer whales experience the world. She and her colleagues scanned the brain of a deceased captive orca for a study back in 2004. “They’re young males, they’re going to be rambunctious,” says Lori. A female orca leaps from the water while breaching in Puget Sound west of Seattle. But for David, the skipper who encountered the killer whales, the word “play” sits uncomfortably with what he felt that evening. They were ramming the keel, there was this horrible echo, I thought they could capsize the boat,” Morris said. Her 46-foot boat was attacked in July, as a pugnacious pod of killer whales spun her boat 180 degrees and disabled the engine, causing it to drift into the Strait of Gibraltar shipping lanes where it had to wait an hour and a half for rescue. And don’t know why,” he sighs. But has our overfishing pushed the younger orcas towards playing with boats? Which brings us to a concerning development of orcas attacking boats off the coasts of Spain and Portugal recently. But there is a bigger reason for Ruth, Renaud and the team to try to adjust the language associated with these incidents. “After about an hour, we were confident they’d left us.”. We call it an interaction.”. In the past six months there have been at least 40 reported incidents involving The giant mammals traveled alongside the boat in San Sebastian Credit: Newsflash. The UK’s Sun newspaper reported that a “rogue pod” was attacking boats “in REVENGE”. The investigation’s conclusions, the official advice for boats about how to avoid these potentially dangerous interactions - even the news stories - hinge on understanding what drives that animals’ behaviour. Renaud worries that this could be a tipping point that could bring the animals into direct conflict with the fishermen, who may see their livelihoods as well as their safety on the line. And, as the bluefin gradually recovered, so did the killer whales. Killer whales orchestrating revenge attacks on boats off Spain They’re capable of cruelty, they’re capable of kindness, they’re capable of all kinds of things just like humans. This revelation caused the headlines to kick up an anthropomorphic notch: killer whales were “orchestrating revenge attacks”, said the New York Post. Families generally stick closely together, with long-lived grandmothers helping to raise young and to teach youngsters to hunt. Researchers have observed some orcas appearing to “celebrate” after a kill. 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