An environmentalist has claimed that the high number of run-ins between killer whales and boats off the northern Spanish coast is due to a harpoon attack on a pod of orcas in July.
Victor J. Hernandez, naturalist and writer of the book ‘Cetaceos: Introduccion a las especies ibericas, baleares y canarias’ (‘Cetaceans: Introduction to the Iberian, Balearic and Canarian Species’) told the news agency EFE that the increasing run-ins with vessels are because of an illegal fishing incident in July.
The encounters, some of which have left boats damaged, have taken place in different parts of the Spanish north coast, particularly around Galicia in the north-west.
The run-ins have mainly affected smaller boats sailing between two and eight miles from the coast.
Last month, a Spanish Navy sailboat saw its rudder snapped off after one encounter with aggressive orcas.
The government temporarily banned sailboats sailing in the area to prevent further incidents on 22nd September.
Hernandez believes the attacks have been carried out by a pod of between nine and 13 orcas led by a male called Pingu.
The pod usually arrives in Spanish waters while following red tuna migrating from the Atlantic Ocean.
Hernandez said: “Sailors in the area who know Pingu’s pod very well due to their markings have claimed that they were attacked with harpoons in July.
“The crew of the illegal fishing boat was probably scared when they saw them approaching so close.”
According to Hernandez, orcas have a good memory like dolphins: “Two of the youngest orcas have been hitting sailboats because they are traumatised by these kinds of vessels. They hit and bite the rudders because it reminds them of the harpoon incident.”
He believes the orcas will keep up the same behaviour until they eventually forget about the alleged harpoon attack.
Hernandez said: “It is only a question of time. I don’t know when, but when tuna migrate from the Atlantic, orcas follow them and will end up forgetting about the abuse they suffered.”
Harpoon Attack To Blame For Killer Whale Attacks Say Expert