Orcas, killer whales, or saviors of the planet? That’s what some on social media asked earlier this year when news of the sea mammals’ frequent attacks on yachts incited a conversation on the ethics of yacht attacks by wild animals.
Those attacks don’t seem to have ended. On Halloween, a pod of orcas targeted the Grazie Mamma yacht as it attempted to cross the Strait of Gibraltar. “Attempted” because the orcas’ attack caused “major damage and leakage” to the extent that the ship sank.
This most recent interaction between a yacht and orcas reportedly lasted forty-five minutes as the animals repeatedly rammed into the ship. The crew of the yacht was able to evacuate despite the loss of the ship safely.
Morskie Mile, the Polish tour company that operated the Grazie Mamma, expressed on Facebook that the ship’s sinking would not halt their operations. In a post on November 1, the company stated, “We are working so that the upcoming cruises in the Canary Islands go as planned.” We’ll see whether the orcas have anything to say about that.
Why Are Orcas Attacking Boats?
Two theories lead the pack as to why these aquatic mammals have damaged so many yachts since 2020. Some scientists, like the president of Conservation, Information and Research on Cetaceans (CIRCE), Dr. Renaud de Stephanis, believe firmly that the orcas’ interactions with boats are “only a game.” Others, including Alfredo López Fernández, a biologist at the University of Aveiro in Portugal, argue that the attacks may be “defensive behavior based on trauma.”
What’s certain is that while it may be catchy, the attacks are not “The Orcas’ Revenge” that some have made them out to be. Orcas are powerful wild animals who are not historically aggressive towards humans. As biopsychologist and expert on orca behavior Dr. Lori Marino says, “If they really wanted to take revenge, they would. You know, let’s not fine coat it. If these orcas wanted to kill humans on those boats, they would.”