Since July, there have been multiple reports of killer whales, also known as orcas, attacking boats along the Spanish and Portuguese coasts. The animals seem to be orchestrating planned attacks leading to the vessels getting damaged and sailors getting injured. Despite their name, killer whales are usually not known for attacks on humans. Scientists studying the pods living in the region are baffled by the sudden violence exhibited. It is unclear if the boats have been attacked by a single pod or if multiple pods are exhibiting the unusual behaviour.

On Friday, September 11, a vessel being transported from Spain to the United Kingdom was damaged by a pod of orcas. The attack occurred near the coast of A Coruña, Spain in the afternoon. Peter Green, the managing director of Halcyon Yachts, confirmed that the 36-foot boat was rammed by the orcas near the stern at least 15 times. The boat was so damaged that it had to be towed into port.

This attack was just one of the multiple concerning incidents involving orcas in the region. On July 29 near Cape Trafalgar, a delivery boat was attacked by the large mammals for over an hour. Victoria Morris, who was onboard the 46-foot vessel recalled being surrounded by nine orcas. The animals rammed the boat, turning it around 180-degrees. They damaged the rudder and disabled the engine. The crew had to be rescued after they were left stranded on the boat.

The Guardian reported details of other similar attacks. A crew member onboard one of the vessels nearly had their shoulder dislocated during the ramming.

British couple Beverly Harris and Kevin Large were left fearing for their lives when the cetaceans targeted their boat at night. Their boat was spun around several times and even slightly lifted before the animals vanished.

Killer whales, which are not really whales but belong to the dolphin family, usually do not pose a threat to humans. Ruth Esteban, who has been studying the Gibraltar orcas is sure that the attacks are orchestrated by a single pod. The unusual behaviour being displayed by more pods is unlikely according to Esteban.

Boats in the area have been warned about approaching the orcas in the region.

Killer whale
Killer whales reportedly attacking boats near Spain and Portugal. (representational image) David Ellifrit, Center for Whale Research