Sunday, November 28

Spain bans small boats in a stretch of water after orca encounters | Spain

Spain has ordered small boats to stay away from a stretch of the country’s southern coast after reports of more than 50 encounters with boisterous killer whales, including up to 25 incidents in which the vessels had to be towed to shore.

A two-week ban prohibits most boats 15 meters or less from sailing close to shore between Cape Trafalgar and the small town of Barbate. It is the second time in 13 months that the Spanish Ministry of Transport has taken steps to address a series of extraordinary encounters with killer whales that have puzzled scientists.

Last year’s ban applied to an area several hundred miles to the north. At the time the ministry said The measure was prompted by the involvement of the killer whales in “several accidents in the coastal area of ​​Galicia, mainly with sailboats.” Authorities did not release the exact figure for how many ships had been affected.

The most recent request was with the aim of preventing “new incidents with killer whales” the ministry it said in a statement. “Since March 27, the date of the first meeting [this year] – Cetaceans have had 56 interactions with small sailboats, sometimes causing rudder failures. Up to 25 cases required the Spanish maritime rescue services to tow boats to the port ”.

The order to give the area ample space came a day after three separate orca encounters were reported in the area within five hours. Two of the ships suffered damage to their rudders and had to be towed into port. according to the Spanish maritime rescue service.

Reports of clashes with highly sensitive cetaceans along the coast of Spain and Portugal began to surface in July and August last year, with sailors sharing stories of rudders that had been rammed and boats that had turned 180 degrees or had been leaning sideways.

Describing the behavior as highly unusual, scientists have struggled to explain the encounters. “These are very strange events,” cetacean researcher Ezequiel Andréu Cazalla told The Guardian last year. “But I don’t think they are attacks.” Scientists have been cautious in characterizing the encounters, since the accounts did not come from trained researchers.

Several of the scientists pointed to the stress on the endangered Gibraltar killer whales as they navigate through life on a major shipping route. Food shortages, injuries and pollution have left the population on a razor’s edge, reduced to fewer than 50 people.

The timing of the encounters, which appeared to begin as maritime traffic accelerated after two months of noise reduction during the pandemic, has led a marine biologist to speculate that the orcas could be expressing their anger as deep-sea fishing, sighting of whales and fast ferries. and others returned to the water.

Others have linked encounters with various noisy killer whales that may have been carried away while playing. “We are not their natural prey,” Bruno Diaz, a biologist at the local Bottlenose Dolphin Research Institute, told the Associated Press last year. “They are having fun, and maybe these killer whales are having fun causing damage.

In October, a working group of Spanish and Portuguese experts said it had identified three killer whales present in 61% of the incidents and suggested that the “unprecedented” behaviors may be related to a previous “aversive incident” between the killer whales and a ship.

“At the moment, we do not have clear evidence of when it happened, nor can we say with certainty what type of ship may have been involved, nor if the incident was accidental or deliberate,” it said in a statement.

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