Orca attacks on yachts in the Straits of Gibraltar.

Naughty White Gladis and her pod of orcas have become quite famous recently in the press after many encounters with yachts. It actually started back in 2020 and has been well tracked since then so we now have a clear picture of where they are and can avoid them. At the end of August they migrate North to Portugal.

We keep updated with the Atlantic Orca Working Group, and other websites which log interactions between whales and boats.

Why are they doing it? Nobody knows why this particular group are doing it but there are many theories:

1, Some believe White Gladis had a bad experience and is out for revenge, fishing boats are risky to attack as they have nets and motorboats are too fast, so sailing boats with a nice rudder to knock are an easy target. They have not shown any aggression towards humans.

2, Orcas are well known for their intelligence. This could be retaliation from tuna fishing, pollution, noise and ship strikes. The Straits of Gibraltar has busy shipping lanes, fishing and fast ferries. There is a conservation area near Barbate where yachts are not allowed to sail, but there is still a lot of fishing in the area. Perhaps they are protesting against us eating all their fish. “The lack of tuna has led these orcas to the very edge” says Pauline Gauffier who has studied them.

3, Another theory is they are just having fun: “I think it’s just as reasonable to suggest that they’re doing this because they can, because it’s fun,” says Hanne Strager, co-founder of the Andenes Whale Center in Norway and author of the recently published book “The Killer whale Journals”. Strager spoke to a biologist who was on board the boat that sunk in November, “and he said, ‘We didn’t feel any aggression.’ And, to me, that’s actually a strong testimony. Because I think when you are interacting regularly with animals, and you’re used to reading them, you can feel an aggressive intent, and they didn’t.”

The National Geographic say: If the orcas are indeed playing, it may suggest that, in time, the boat attacks could end when the whales get bored. Orca populations around the world have been observed engaging in new behaviors for no obvious reason than that they appear to enjoy it and then, just as suddenly, dropping it and moving onto something else.

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