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Group of killer whales attack and sink 50-foot yacht in Strait of Gibraltar

A pod of killer whales attacked and sank a yacht in the Strait of Gibraltar between Spain and Morocco on Sunday morning, officials confirmed to ABC News.

Two people were on board the ship when the incident occurred at 9 a.m. local time, according to the Spanish maritime authority.

The nearly 50-foot yacht, named The Alboran Cognac, was 15 miles from Cabo Espartel in Morocco when an unknown number of orcas began ramming it.

The couple alerted Spanish authorities and a rescue team arrived to extract them from the ship an hour after the attack, but authorities were unable to save the sinking boat.

There have been about 700 orca attacks since 2020, according to GT Orca Atlantica, a conservation group, and officials estimate there are more than 37 orcas in the Strait of Gibraltar.

PHOTO: Aerial view of the Rock of Gibraltar seen from the neighboring Spanish town of La Linea, October 17, 2019.

An aerial view of the Rock of Gibraltar from the nearby Spanish town of La Linea, October 17, 2019.

Javier Fergo/AP

The Strait of Gibraltar connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea, separating Europe from Africa.

“During the summer and autumn of 2020, interaction events began to occur between several specimens of this species and vessels, mainly sailboats, both in the Strait of Gibraltar and in the waters of the Galician coast,” according to Spanish government officials. “These interactions range from persistently approaching ships to ramming the hull and rudder, causing various types of damage, which continues today.”

PHOTO: Orca breaching off the San Juan Islands.

Orca breaching off the coast of the San Juan Islands.

Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images

It’s unclear why orcas attack boats, although experts hypothesize that the marine mammals might target boats for sport or feel threatened.

According to a study published in Biological Conservation, a peer-reviewed journal, “sophisticated learning abilities” exist in orcas.

In June 2023, racing sailboats in the Strait of Gibraltar had a close encounter with a pod of orcas, racing officials said at the time.

Crew members aboard a rival pair of 65-foot yachts were competing in the final leg of The Ocean Race, a global sailing competition, when they reported being intercepted by killer whales as their boats approached the Strait of Gibraltar.

No deaths were reported in the incident, according to authorities.

ABC News

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