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Risk map

Warning: the map is not official information from Salvage Services or maritime traffic, it is simply a recommendation made by GTOA based on information received from navigators and salvage services, interactions and sightings. We consider it valid for 24 hours with security or until new notice.

In the presence of orcas

  • If it is possible in the sea conditions and location, slow down, stop engine, (slow the sails), turn off autopilot and leave the rudder to track.

  • Contact with 112/16 channel radio or the area officer (Tarifa 10; Tangier 69; Fisterra 16).

  • Take your hands out of the rudder wheel and do not touch it, move away from any part of the ship that may fall or turn sharply.

  • If it is posible turn off the sonde and keep VHF TURNED ON and position elements.

  • If you have camera phone, or another devicerecord to animals, especially their dorsal fins ,in order to identify them.

  • When after a while you didn't feel pressure at the rudder and the animals have moved away, Check that it spins and works.

  • If you appreciate fault that prevents navigation, request towing.

  • Let it be transfer your contact to specialists in cetaceans to evaluate your case.

  • Basic information to transfer to the authorities: Name of the boat - Date and time - Contact (phone / email) - Position (GPS/approximate).

Note that...

What do they confuse the rudder with?

Orcas don't confuse the rudder with anything, they know what it is, how it moves and what effect it has when touching it. The speed of the ship and the resistance of the rudder cause it to persist in action. Stopping the movement, stopping the engine and letting go of the rudder, towards the runway, causes them to drop their interest, ceasing the interaction, in most cases.

What kind of boats do they interact with more?
Currently, the  type of boats with which they interact more, are  monohull sailboats of less than 15 meters in length, with a spade rudder, also called spade, although it is probably the most common type of rudder.

Do all interactions result in damage to the ship?

Only 50% of ships orcas interact with take any kind of damage, usually to the rudder which is where orcas are concentrated most of the time. Within the vessels that followed the protocol in 2021, 53% of vessels that did not have any damage to the vessel were due to following the security protocol.

What can we do when we have an interaction?

Try to keep the boat on course, as hitting the rudder underwater can cause the rudder wheel to suddenly spin out of control, and it has been shown that animals tend to hit the rudder harder as they feel more pressure on him and the damage to ships tend to be larger.


Orcas can be stimulated by human actions to interact with the boat, so please try to stay out of their sight and do not shout, try to hit them, touch them or throw things at them.

Do interactions occur at all times of the day or night?
Interactions have been recorded both during the day and at night, although more interactions are concentrated in the middle of the day.

Does speed matter?

The average speed of the boats with which they interact is around 6 knots, which also corresponds to the average speed of this type of boat (sailboats of less than 15 meters), although a boat has been registered in a stationary boat, and even on a ship traveling at 25 knots.​

Does the color of the helmet matter?
No, all sorts of colors have been reported to interact.

Does it matter if you are driving or sailing? Even the type of electronic equipment?
Nor, for the moment there is no defined pattern, do ships that are either sailing or motorized, or both, interact with devices such as echo sounders on or off.

Do orcas attack humans?
There are no known direct intentional attacks on humans. In 2020, in Galicia, there were sightings on beaches among surfers without incident or interaction on their part. These orcas do not eat seals or anything that would mistake humans for food.

Was there any aggression towards the orcas? 
There have been intentional or unintentional attacks on orcas in the last , mainly when there have been conflicts of interest between orcas and humans, usually when orcas have taken prey from fishing lines. Several injuries have been observed in one particular individual who has been interacting with sailboats, but at this time we are unsure of the source of these injuries. 

What solutions inmediates can be offered to people who have interactions?
There are no solutions, this is a new situation for everyone, including orcas, which we are all dealing with for the first time. Ships must follow the recommendations of the maritime authorities in each area and at all times. There are no infallible protocols.

Why are interactions labeled as attacks, if it is known for certain that it is not an aggressive activity?
There is no evidence of aggressive intent in his behaviour. Orcas can not be accused of living in their own environment, where we are the intruders.

What mitigation measures have been taken against these interactions?
During 2020, sailing vessels of less than 15 meters were prohibited in the waters of Galicia , where most of the interactions were concentrated, and this year the same was done in the waters of the Strait of Gibraltar. In Portugal, because most of the interactions were with small inflatable boats, which are the typical boats used for whale watching, especially in the Algarve, el ICNF recommended to avoid approaching orcas. Radio alerts were also given through official channels of the presence of orcass in the areas of interaction. In case of interaction, a security protocol was designed.

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