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Marine Experts Say They’ve Cracked Mystery of Orcas Bumping Boats in Mediterranean

29th May 2024
File image of two orcas breaching
Orcas like these have been linked to hundreds of incidents involving sailing vessels off the Iberian Peninsula Credit: Robert Pittman

A team of marine experts believe they have cracked the mystery of why a pod of orcas have been ramming boats in the Mediterranean in recent years.

Following one of the most recent incidents, in which a 15-metre yacht was sunk after interaction with the marine wildlife apex predators, a study on their behaviour says it’s all down to “child’s play”, as New Atlas reports.

More specifically, the International Whaling Commission report on the so-called “Gladis” pod of Iberian orcas claims that an abundance of bluefun tuna in the region’s waters means the younger cetaceans are spending less time feeding and more time playing.

And just as other orca groups around the world have been observed adopting various ‘fads’ — such as the pod off the USA’s Pacific North West coast that wore salmon ‘hats’ in the late 1980s — it appears this group have taken to bumping boats as their trend of choice in their ample free time.

The report is also at pains to emphasise that despite the havoc experienced by Mediterranean boaters, the animals really mean no harm.

“The use of such terms as ‘attack’ to describe these interactions is thus inappropriate, misleading and should cease,” it adds.

New Atlas has more on the story HERE.

MacDara Conroy

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MacDara Conroy

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MacDara Conroy is a contributor covering all things on the water, from boating and wildlife to science and business

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Marine Wildlife Around Ireland One of the greatest memories of any day spent boating around the Irish coast is an encounter with marine wildlife.  It's a thrill for young and old to witness seabirds, seals, dolphins and whales right there in their own habitat. As boaters fortunate enough to have experienced it will testify even spotting a distant dorsal fin can be the highlight of any day afloat.  Was that a porpoise? Was it a whale? No matter how brief the glimpse it's a privilege to share the seas with Irish marine wildlife.

Thanks to the location of our beautiful little island, perched in the North Atlantic Ocean there appears to be no shortage of marine life to observe.

From whales to dolphins, seals, sharks and other ocean animals this page documents the most interesting accounts of marine wildlife around our shores. We're keen to receive your observations, your photos, links and youtube clips.

Boaters have a unique perspective and all those who go afloat, from inshore kayaking to offshore yacht racing that what they encounter can be of real value to specialist organisations such as the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) who compile a list of sightings and strandings. The IWDG knowledge base has increased over the past 21 years thanks in part at least to the observations of sailors, anglers, kayakers and boaters.

Thanks to the IWDG work we now know we share the seas with dozens of species who also call Ireland home. Here's the current list: Atlantic white-sided dolphin, beluga whale, blue whale, bottlenose dolphin, common dolphin, Cuvier's beaked whale, false killer whale, fin whale, Gervais' beaked whale, harbour porpoise, humpback whale, killer whale, minke whale, northern bottlenose whale, northern right whale, pilot whale, pygmy sperm whale, Risso's dolphin, sei whale, Sowerby's beaked whale, sperm whale, striped dolphin, True's beaked whale and white-beaked dolphin.

But as impressive as the species list is the IWDG believe there are still gaps in our knowledge. Next time you are out on the ocean waves keep a sharp look out!