It happens in the last few weeks. A group of killer whales has become a nightmare for boats. They attack sailboats and yachts that end up damaged. What is the cause of the killer whales’ rebellion in Gibraltar?
So far in 2023 there have been 12 incidents. The problem may be due to the invasion of their habitat. Says Dr. Lázaro Guevara, researcher at the Institute of Biology of the UNAM. “The ones who are intruders are humans. We must not forget that the orcas are in their natural environment,” he contrasts.
In May 2020 the first case was recorded. A study (Killer whales of the Strait of Gibraltar, an endangered subpopulation showing a disruptive behavior) was published about it. It appears in the journal Marine Mammal Science in 2022. It details 49 interactions with ships. Notes that these cetaceans know how the transports they are attacking work, due to their high intelligence.
Killer whales know what the rudder is, how it moves and what effect it has when touched. The speed of the ship and the resistance of the rudder cause it to persist in action. Stopping the motion, stopping the engine and releasing the rudder lowers their interest.
The factors why cetaceans behave this way may be diverse. One possibility is that they replicate the behavior of a member of their own species. It could be to learn more about humans or to perform game-like actions.
The second is related to a possible aggression against one of them. “They fish the same resource for food, which is tuna. Both we and they like tuna. It is likely that there was a negative interaction.”
The killer whale rebellion in Gibraltar would be a passing issue, specialists indicate. It should not worry the population and cause a negative effect. “We must coexist peacefully with the species. And give them all the respect they deserve. We should not allow discrimination towards animals just because we consider them inferior beings”.