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Orca Interactions - What You Need to Know

Cruising Association and GTOA Grupo Trabajo Orca Atlantica







Since 2020 about 15 members of a population of orca who frequent the Atlantic coasts of Spain and Portugal have been damaging yachts in the seas between the middle of the Bay of Biscay and Marbella in southern Spain.

Around 15 of this population of less than 50 individuals have caused damage to numerous small vessels, at least 4 of which have sunk. The damage typically affects the rudders and crews can usually make their way to a safe port. To date no-one has been seriously injured by the orca.

After four years of study, scientists are still uncertain why the orca are behaving this way, suspecting it may be a form of play. Notably, the orca are a protected species, and any action taken to deter or drive them off during an interaction must not harm them.

These orca are Resident rather than Transitory, solely consuming fish and avoiding warm-blooded mammals. The primary risk from these interactions lies in potential damage to yachts and the very real possibility of injury to the crew.

Orca Attacks and Risk

In early 2023, the number of interactions escalated, and there's no indication that the situation will ease in 2024. Interactions peak between April to September, with reduced interactions during winter.

Past behaviour indicates orca activity is concentrated in the Strait of Gibraltar from April to early July as the bluefin tuna exit the Mediterranean, then many of the orca locate elsewhere. However, their movements are unpredictable. At times, they disperse and then simultaneously appear in disparate locations.

It is difficult to predict far in advance exactly where the orca will be at any time in the season as their movements change each year.

Stay Safe

There are now a number of sources of information to help a crew sailing in these waters.

Grupo Trabajo Orca Atlantica (GTOA) - in 2022 the CA formed a collaboration with GTOA, a group of Spanish and Portuguese scientists who have been studying the behaviour of the orca for some years. The GTOA website contains a wealth of information at It shows the locations of interactions since 2020, a traffic light risk map warning system for all affected areas based on recent interactions and locations, the latest advice on what to do if an interaction occurs and an updated catalogue of the orca population identifies the orca involved in interactions.

Mobile Apps - there are apps which record sightings and interactions to provide up to date information on orca locations.

Community Groups

The predominant Facebook group with over 61,000 members is Orca Attack Reports. There are others (search “Orca Attack”) including Orca Attack – Iberia and Orcas Attack Solutions.

There is a Telegram group which discuss sightings, interactions and also brainstorming for solutions.

Whilst information on these groups is provided for reference, the CA does not endorse or validate any specific platform.

The CA has prepared a checklist of actions to take before transiting through the effected areas.

When transiting these waters where the orca are believed to be, , it is safer to stay in waters under 20 meters deep and close to the shore if conditions permit. To date there are no confirmed reports of interactions in such waters, but this must be balanced against the risks of navigational hazards such as rocks and fishing buoys.



To date there is no certain way to stop an interaction once it starts but possible courses of action are detailed on our Checklist of Actions

Stay Informed

Skipper Reports

A critical part of the CA research has been the collation and publication of detailed anonymised reports from skippers who have experienced an interaction, as well as from yachts sailing without incident through an affected area during a period of interaction activity (an 'uneventful passage’). The CA data and comments resource has disproved certain theories and supported others, with much remaining inconclusive.

You can also explore the CA 'Interaction Comments Library' which is collated by the different deterrent measures and actions taken by the skipper/crew who have experienced interactions.

You can also view an analysis of orca interactions by location, year and month since 2020.

All reports on the CA database are used by the CA, GTOA, other scientific organisations and skippers and the latest data can be viewed via the links below:

  • Reports - anonymised skipper interaction and uneventful passaged reports and a summary of comparative data.
  • Interaction Comments Library - extracts from skipper reports detailing actions taken by skipper actions.

Submit a Report

It is important when passage planning to keep up to date with current orca locations and the apps listed above are the best way to do this.

However, skippers are also requested to submit a more detailed report to the CA portal which is the central platform to monitor in detail orca interactions and uneventful passages. Without these reports, critical information such as changes in the behaviour of orca, or the effectiveness of a particular tactic will not be available for other crews or for research. The CA urges all skippers to report:

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