Orcas in Norway. Mike Korostelev/Getty Images
A sailor told the Guardian that an orca repeatedly rammed a boat in the Shetland Islands.
The attack follows a series of orca incidents around the Iberian Peninsula.
One expert said the “craze” is “spreading through different pods and communities”.
An orca attacked a yacht off the Shetland Islands coast in the North Sea earlier this week, as incidents of killer whale attacks suggest it could spread across the oceans.
Previous orca attacks on boats had occurred over 3,000 miles away, off the coasts of Portugal and Spain.
Dr Wim Rutten was on his way from Lerwick, Shetland, to Bergen, Norway, an island 400 miles off the north coast of Scotland on Monday, when an orca suddenly surfaced and tore off the rear of his seven-tonne yacht, reports The Guardian. crashed into.
Rutan told The Guardian that the orca repeatedly collided with the ship, causing “slight tremors” in the hull. This is the first known attack by an orca on a boat in the North Sea.
The 72-year-old Dutch physicist, an experienced sailor, said he had heard of orca incidents around Portugal, adding that he found the orca’s rapid breathing “most appalling”.
He said the animal kept following the boat, disappeared, but then “came back two or three times at high speed, and circled a little.”
He said, “Maybe he just wanted to play. Or look into my eyes. Or get rid of the fishing line.”
The trend now seems to have spread further, with an expert studying orca pods off the Scottish coast telling The Guardian that it was possible that North Sea orcas were learning from southern orca populations.
“It is possible that this ‘fad’ is spreading rapidly to different pods/communities,” Dr Connor Ryan, scientific advisor to the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust, told The Guardian.
Similar behavior has been regularly observed in killer whales off the coast of the Iberian Peninsula, and experts say orca interactions with ships have been on the rise since 2020, as Insider previously reported.
While many boat interactions with orcas in the area have been harmless, killer whales have increasingly rammed and even sunk boats.
The exact reason behind this behavior is unclear, but some experts believe that a traumatized female orca named White Gladys may be behind this trend, with other killer whales learning and imitating her aggressive behavior.
Marine animals are “so highly intelligent” that they can learn from each other very quickly, with former SeaWorld orca trainer John Hargrove also recently predicting that attacks will continue to rise.
The increasing number of incidents has researchers concerned about the safety of boaters and the dwindling orca population around the Iberian Peninsula.
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