Britons rescued at sea in Portugal after killer whale boat incident

Shetland: Man spots killer whales chasing seal onto rocks

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The pair, aged 49 and 51, were unharmed in the incident according to Portuguese authorities. Orca (killer whale) incidents have become more frequent around the coast of Portugal and Spain.

The pair were found adrift on a sailboat about four nautical miles (seven kilometres) from São Juilão beach.

São Juilão is on Portugal’s west coast and is a popular surfing and bodyboarding destination.

Authorities were alerted to the adrift Britons at 4.13am on November 2 when the lifeguard service attended the incident.

Portugal’s National Maritime Authority issued a warning about the dangers of killer whales after the incident.

A statement from the Authority said: “Upon arrival at the sailboat, the members of the lifeguard crew found the two crew were in good physical condition.

“The National Maritime Authority and the Institute for the Conservation of Nature and Forests recommend to all mariners that in the event of sighting of these mammals, the engine be turned off in order to inhibit the rotation of the propeller, and the rudder blade immobilised.

“Thus discouraging these mammals to interact with the mobile structures of the vessels.”

Orca encounters became increasingly frequent in 2020 with people sharing videos of terrifying incidents.

Spain’s Ministry of Environment has launched an investigation into the frightening encounters.

Prior to the Portugal incident, the Ministry said: “The objective is to a detailed follow up of the cases of interaction of killer whales with sailboats in order to minimise the impact on the species and provide safety to the boats.

“In addition, a pilot project will be designed and launched to try to understand the cases and reduce the episodes of interaction between killer whales and sailboats.”

Killer whales have shown increasing interest in sailboats in the area. Scientists are so far at a loss to explain the incidents.

David Smith, who had a “terrifying” encounter with an orca in Portugal in October 2020, told the BBC: “I don’t frighten easily and this was terrifying.

“I looked at this animal and it was jet black and brilliant white. It was continuous. I think there were six or seven animals, but it seemed like the juvenile ones, the smaller ones, were most active.

“They seemed to be going for the rudder, the wheel would just start spinning really fast every time there was an impact.”

In the incidents in 2020, the killer whales approached boats and bashed into them in frightening encounters.

The recent boat accidents could be a sign of orcas trying to show off their strength by turning a boat using the rudder.

Experts have said the species is very boisterous and may be “playing” with the boats. Orcas weigh around 4-5 tonnes so play can quickly become extremely dangerous.

Although they are carnivorous creatures, killer whales don’t eat people and don’t seem to have a desire to hunt humans.

They are highly intelligent which has led to them being used in controversial aquatic shows around the world.

Killer whales are a family oriented species and are highly social creatures, often travelling in pods.

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