Orcas sink a sailing yacht in the Strait of Gibraltar

An unknown number of killer whales sank a sailing yacht after it rammed it in Moroccan waters in the Strait of Gibraltar, the Spanish Maritime Rescue Service said on Monday, in a new attack in what has become a trend in the past four years.

The Alboran Cognac, a 15-meter (49-foot) vessel carrying two people, encountered the highly social predators, also known as killer whales, at 9 a.m. local time (0700 GMT) on Sunday, the service said.

Passengers reported feeling sudden blows to the ship’s hull and rudder before water began seeping into the ship. After alerting rescue services, a nearby oil tanker took them to Gibraltar.

The yacht was left adrift and eventually sank.

The accident is the latest example of this Repeated orca shocks Around the Strait of Gibraltar, which separates Europe from Africa, and off the Atlantic coast of Portugal and northwestern Spain.

Experts believe it includes a subpopulation of about 15 individuals called “gladys.”

According to research group GTOA, which tracks populations of the Iberian orca subspecies, there have been nearly 700 interactions since orca attacks on ships in the region were first reported in May 2020.

Researchers are unsure of the reasons for this behavior, with leading theories suggesting it is a playful display of mammalian curiosity, a social fad or deliberate targeting of what they see as competitors to their preferred prey, the local bluefin tuna.

Although they are known as killer whales, endangered orcas are part of the dolphin family. They can reach eight meters in length and weigh up to six tons as adults.

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