Another yacht sinks off Gibraltar in orca-related incident

CLOSER Orca 011819 AP Elaine Thompson

A small yacht sank on Sunday in the Strait of Gibraltar following an interaction with an unspecified number of orcas, Spain’s maritime rescue service said Tuesday.

The interaction follows hundreds of similar incidents in the region in recent years.

Two crew members were able to be rescued in time, after they managed to notify the Maritime Rescue Coordination Center in Tarifa. An oil tanker passing nearby and Moroccan authorities participated in the rescue operation, which took place 14 miles off Cape Spartel in northern Morocco, Spanish authorities said.

Spanish officials first estimated that the boat was about 10 meters long (33 feet), but The Washington Post confirmed with Alboran Charter, a Spain-based company, that the vessel was a 15-meter (50 feet) Alboran Cognac yacht. The Associated Press similarly reported the vessel was 15 meters in length.

The Hill has reached out to the yacht rental company for confirmation.

The latest orca incident prompted the Spanish maritime rescue agency to issue a series of new recommendations to avoid interactions with the killer whales.

They advised sailors to avoid navigating in a specified area of a map, between the Gulf of Cádiz and the Strait of Gibraltar. Officials advised to establish routes as close as possible to the coast, within safety limits.

Officials recommended that these guidelines be followed throughout the year, but said “extreme caution” should be taken during the summer months, between May and August, noting that there’s a higher chance of encountering killer whales in the Atlantic at that time.

Spanish officials also issued new recommendations for best practices when sailors encounter orcas. They should not stop the boat, but should instead should navigate the boat toward the coast, where waters are more shallow. Officials also warned passengers to stay away from the sides of the boat as much as possible, warning of the risk that possible blows or sudden movements could “cause injuries or falls into the sea.”

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