Boats banned from approaching groups of orcas

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The Institute for Nature Conservation and Forests (ICNF) prohibits, as of today, maritime-tourist vessels from actively approaching groups of orcas, in order to avoid serious consequences.

According to the ICNF, interactions between orcas and vessels, mostly sailboats, have been recorded since 2020 in the Strait of Gibraltar area, Portuguese coast and Galicia (Spain).

“While the reasons for this recent and repetitive behavior towards vessels are unknown, it is known that the initial interactions, conducted by a small group of juvenile orcas, are now carried out by a wider range of animals,” he explains.

In a notice published on the website, the ICNF warns that, given the size of adult animals (a maximum of eight to nine meters in length and three to five tons in weight), the more intense interaction of orcas with semi-rigid or other types of smaller vessels, such as those used for whale watching, can have more serious consequences.

The institute determines that in cases where orcas try to approach the vessels, the vessels should move away and that whenever the animals come close to the boats without the crew realizing it, the vessel should be stopped, leaving the engine running, but only resuming when the animals move away.

These bans are covered by a decree-law aimed at conserving natural habitats and wild fauna and flora in the territory of the European Union.

All these bans will be valid until the last day of the year.

According to data from the Atlantic Orca Working Group (GTOA) – a team of Spanish and Portuguese marine life researchers studying orcas near the Iberian Peninsula – more than 200 interactions between orcas and boats were recorded in 2022 on the Atlantic coast of Portugal and Spain.

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