The World Cetacean Alliance (WCA), along with WeWhale Association, Sea Shepherd France, and the Spanish animal rights political party Partido Animalista Con el Medio Ambiente (PACMA) have filed a report with the relevant authorities regarding a suspected offence against orcas, a legally protected species, in the waters near Cádiz, Spain.
The incident occurred on 17 August 2023 and is related to an apparent attack on a group of Iberian orcas by the crew of the vessel NAKULA, crossing the Strait of Gibraltar. The report is based on several pieces of evidence, including video recordings, photographs and testimonies from eyewitnesses, and a social media post from one of the alleged perpetrators admitting their involvement.
The sailors were recorded opening fire on the orcas after the whales approached their vessel. It’s unclear from the footage what kind of projectiles were used, but a social media post, presumed to be from the vessel involved, later stated that they had shot fireworks.
We believe that these actions may constitute an offence and have formally submitted documentation and filed charges to the delegate prosecutor for environmental crimes. We have requested that the authorities conduct a thorough investigation, including identifying and summoning the alleged perpetrators and the owner of the vessel NAKULA, to ensure justice in this case.
Iberian orcas are a critically endangered subpopulation, with fewer than 50 individuals remaining. The WCA and other organisations have raised concerns that media coverage of interactions between these orcas and vessels in the Strait of Gibraltar, which have been wrongly sensationalised as the orcas ‘attacking’ boats, could put the animals at risk of harmful retaliation from mariners. The WCA has previously published guidance for vessel operators in this area to help reduce the chances of a boat interaction with orcas that could lead to damage.
Harry Eckman, CEO of the WCA, said: “All current evidence suggests that orca-boat interactions, like the incident on 17 August, are play behaviour by juvenile orcas. As frustrating as this may be for seafarers, this does not justify the dangerous and reckless events that took place. It is vital that those responsible are held to account for their actions. Orcas require our protection and it is our collective responsibility to minimise our impact on their environment.”
To stay updated on the case’s progress, you can visit WeWhale’s dedicated website Attacks Against Orcas, which aims to provide information on ongoing cases related to reported incidents of aggression towards orcas by vessels or humans. The platform also allows individuals who witness such attacks to report their observations.
Header photo of orcas by Stephen Walker, via Unsplash.