Whale Attacks On The Atlantic: Driving Ban Off The Spanish Coast

Current 2023

Table of contents:

Whale Attacks On The Atlantic: Driving Ban Off The Spanish Coast
Whale Attacks On The Atlantic: Driving Ban Off The Spanish Coast

Video: Whale Attacks On The Atlantic: Driving Ban Off The Spanish Coast

Video: Whale Attacks On The Atlantic: Driving Ban Off The Spanish Coast
Video: Lagoon 450 Attacked by Orcas (killer whales) off the Portuguese Coast 2023, March

After there were further attacks by killer whales on the Bay of Biscay and off the European Atlantic coast, the Spanish Ministry of Transport responded and issued a coastal ban on pleasure craft under 15 meters in length.

It applies to the region north of the Spanish port city of Coruña, along the 40 nautical miles of coastline between Cape Prioriño Grande and Puntde Estacde Bares.

Driving ban in Spain
Driving ban in Spain

Area affected by the driving ban off the Spanish coast, in the south of the Bay of Biscay (marked in red)

It is initially limited to one week, but can be extended. Leaving ports and approaching them from the sea at a right angle to the coast is still allowed.

Mysterious behavior of a whale family

The reason for the measure is the accumulation of whale attacks on sailing yachts since mid-August. Since then, many crews have reported incidents in which killer whales swam towards their ship, dived underneath and damaged the rudder blade so badly that the ships had to be towed away. Most recently, the crew of a German sailing yacht documented the incident in a video.

According to the Spanish authorities, most of the attacks took place on yachts less than 15 meters long, about two to eight nautical miles from the coast and sailing between five and nine knots.

Marine biologists and whale researchers have so far only made assumptions about the animals' unusual behavior. It seems clear that it is always one and the same whale family that is now hunting for tuna in the Bay of Biscay in autumn.

They don't want to play

Whale researcher AndreSteffen, who has been studying the behavior of the highly intelligent marine mammals together with her husband for 25 years, explains in an interview with the YACHT possible causes for the unusual encounters between humans and whales.

"If whales become aggressive, it has something to do with their prey or the protection of their young," says the Düsseldorf native, who runs a research station with her husband on the Caribbean island of Dominic, among other things. "They certainly don't want to play."

Rather, an obvious theory is that the animals are stressed by hunger and that their prey is less and less. "For years there has been a real battle in the region between tuna fishermen and whales," explains Steffen. "Whales are extremely capable of learning. But they cannot tell whether it is a fishing boat or a sailing boat." One possible explanation is therefore that the killer whales feel disturbed and see the ships as predators. "But that's only a theory," emphasizes Steffen. "We don't know what exactly happens there."

What crews can do

However, she excludes the fact that the animals target the rudder blades of the yachts in order to make them incapable of maneuvering. Rather, a rudder blade is the first part of the ship that the whales would approach when approaching from aft.

The whale researcher, who herself has sailed many miles in the North and Baltic Seas and in the Caribbean, recommends the following to crews who are attacked by orcas: stop the engine, if it is running, turn it, bring the boat to a standstill and wait. In addition, it is essential to inform the coast guard. It is in no way advisable to drive in the direction of the animals or try to escape. "I rather assume that the animals lose interest when the noises of the engine are gone."

Cruising sailors and transfer crews who sail their ships across the Biskaygen south at this time of year are particularly affected. You should look out carefully and follow the coastguard information.

The whole interview with whale researcher AndreSteffen will appear in YACHT 22/2020 at the beginning of October.

Whale sailing yacht whale frog AndreSteffen
Whale sailing yacht whale frog AndreSteffen

Peaceful encounter between yacht and killer whale, here in Norway

Popular by topic