A two-week ban has been imposed on the sailing of small boats off the coast between Capes Trafalgar and Barbate. Spain ordered small vessels to stay out of the country's southern coast after more than 50 encounters with aggressive killer whales, including 25 incidents in which ships were towed to shore after being damaged.
A two-week ban prohibits most ships less than 15 meters in length from sailing off the coast between Cape Trafalgar and the small town of Barbate. This is the second time in 11 months that the Spanish Ministry of Transport has taken action on the unusual aggressive behavior of killer whales, which has baffled scientists.
Last year, the ban extended to an area several hundred miles to the north. At the time, the ministry said the measure was prompted by the involvement of killer whales in "several incidents in the coastal area of Galicia, mainly involving sailing boats." The authorities did not give an exact figure of how many ships were damaged.
The latest order was aimed at preventing "further incidents with killer whales," the ministry said in a statement. "Since March 27 - the date of the first meeting [this year] - cetaceans have interacted 56 times with small sailing vessels, sometimes resulting in rudder breakage. In 25 cases, the Spanish Marine Rescue Service was required to tow the vessels to port."
The order to stay offshore in the area came a day after three separate encounters with killer whales occurred in the area over a five-hour period. Two ships suffered rudder damage and had to be towed to port, according to the Spanish Marine Rescue Service.
Collisions with killer whales along the coast of Spain and Portugal began to appear in July and August last year. Sailors told that killer whales rammed the rudders, and ships turned 180 degrees or overturned on one side.
Describing this behavior as highly unusual, scientists have failed to explain these instances of killer whale aggression towards boats. "These are very strange events," says cetacean researcher Ezequiel Andreu Casalla.