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Marine Scientist Suggests Orcas Ramming Yachts for "Adrenaline Shot"

29th June 2023
An orca close to a yacht off the Iberian coast
An orca close to a yacht off the Iberian coast

A scientist researching orca attacks on yachts off the Iberian coast says they are doing it for the “adrenaline shot”.

As The Evening Standard reports, marine biologist Renaud de Stephanis said he believed the whales were ramming boats for fun, and not out of malice.

At least three boats have sunk in some 500 incidents recorded since 2020.

“Don’t ask me how they started it because I don’t know, and I don’t think anyone ever will. What we do think is that it is a simple game for them,” de Stephanis is quoted as saying.

He is completing a report on the orca behaviour for the Spanish Ministry of Ecological Transition.

He referred to one particular orca that has a deep scar on its back, believed to have been caused by hitting an engine propeller.

“She belongs to a family of seven members and as far as we know, she is the most active of all,” he said.

Underwater cameras have helped researchers capture numerous videos of the incidents since they began in 2020.

A separate report published by LiveScience in May of this year quoted scientists who believe a traumatic event may have triggered a change in behaviour of one orca which the rest of the Iberian orca population had learned to imitate.

Marine biologist Alfredo López Fernandez of the University of Aveiro in Portugal and representative of the Grupo de Trabajo Orca Atlántica, or Atlantic Orca Working Group, said that “ defensive behaviour based on trauma, as the origin of all this, gains more strength for us every day”.

The Iberian orca population is listed as critically endangered, with just 39 of the animals recorded in the last census in 2011.

Read more in the Evening Standard here and LiveScience here

Published in Marine Science Team

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Marine Science Perhaps it is the work of the Irish research vessel RV Celtic Explorer out in the Atlantic Ocean that best highlights the essential nature of marine research, development and sustainable management, through which Ireland is developing a strong and well-deserved reputation as an emerging centre of excellence. From Wavebob Ocean energy technology to aquaculture to weather buoys and oil exploration these pages document the work of Irish marine science and how Irish scientists have secured prominent roles in many European and international marine science bodies.


At A Glance – Ocean Facts

  • 71% of the earth’s surface is covered by the ocean
  • The ocean is responsible for the water cycle, which affects our weather
  • The ocean absorbs 30% of the carbon dioxide added to the atmosphere by human activity
  • The real map of Ireland has a seabed territory ten times the size of its land area
  • The ocean is the support system of our planet.
  • Over half of the oxygen we breathe was produced in the ocean
  • The global market for seaweed is valued at approximately €5.4 billion
  • · Coral reefs are among the oldest ecosystems in the world — at 230 million years
  • 1.9 million people live within 5km of the coast in Ireland
  • Ocean waters hold nearly 20 million tons of gold. If we could mine all of the gold from the ocean, we would have enough to give every person on earth 9lbs of the precious metal!
  • Aquaculture is the fastest growing food sector in the world – Ireland is ranked 7th largest aquaculture producer in the EU
  • The Atlantic Ocean is the second largest ocean in the world, covering 20% of the earth’s surface. Out of all the oceans, the Atlantic Ocean is the saltiest
  • The Pacific Ocean is the largest ocean in the world. It’s bigger than all the continents put together
  • Ireland is surrounded by some of the most productive fishing grounds in Europe, with Irish commercial fish landings worth around €200 million annually
  • 97% of the earth’s water is in the ocean
  • The ocean provides the greatest amount of the world’s protein consumed by humans
  • Plastic affects 700 species in the oceans from plankton to whales.
  • Only 10% of the oceans have been explored.
  • 8 million tonnes of plastic enter the ocean each year, equal to dumping a garbage truck of plastic into the ocean every minute.
  • 12 humans have walked on the moon but only 3 humans have been to the deepest part of the ocean.

(Ref: Marine Institute)

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