Scientists think a traumatized orca initiated the assault on boats after a "critical moment of agony" and that the behavior is spreading among the population through social learning.
Most encounters have been harmless, López Fernandez told Live Science in an email. "In more than 500 interaction events recorded since 2020 there are three sunken ships. We estimate that killer whales only touch one ship out of every hundred that sail through a location."
The spike in aggression towards boats is a recent phenomenon, López Fernandez said. Researchers think that a traumatic event may have triggered a change in the behavior of one orca, which the rest of the population has learned to imitate.
"The orcas are doing this on purpose, of course, we don't know the origin or the motivation, but defensive behavior based on trauma, as the origin of all this, gains more strength for us every day," López Fernandez said.
Experts suspect that a female orca they call White Gladis suffered a "critical moment of agony" — a collision with a boat or entrapment during illegal fishing — that flipped a behavioral switch. "That traumatized orca is the one that started this behavior of physical contact with the boat," López Fernandez said.
Another theory for the cause of these attacks:
A fascinating article from Marine Industry UK has offered an interesting explanation for the increase in Orca attacks on yachts. The attacks have made global headlines over the past three years as the whales have become increasingly brazen and methodical. Most of the attacks have occurred near...