"Since May 2020, there have been at least 673 documented interactions between orcas, which are the most powerful ocean predators, and boats," highlighted Naomi Rose, from the Animal Welfare Institute.

"But this behaviour has more in common with violent games than with aggression", defended the scientist, in an interview with the Efe agency.

Naomi Rose highlighted that, after breaking the rudder, the orcas play with the pieces and leave.

"In this entire period, they only caused the sinking of seven vessels", she highlighted.

In most documented incidents off Portugal and Spain, a pod of orcas struck the rudders of small vessels and then fled at high speed.

There are no reports of attacks on people on board the boats.

"Orcas, which are a critically endangered marine population, are very intelligent. If they wanted to sink the ship, they would do so, but the objective seems to be to hit the rudder and only in 20% of incidents did they damage the ship, making it unseaworthy ", she highlighted.

This was also the conclusion of the experts gathered in Madrid for the workshop sponsored by the International Whaling Commission and the governments of Spain and Portugal.

The behaviour of Iberian orcas appears associated with play or socialization, "perhaps stimulated by the abundance and recent increase in prey, which reduces the time needed to capture food and by reducing negative interactions with fishing".

Rose noted that for years, boaters have used different methods to repel Iberian orcas, including illegal actions such as launching fireworks, pouring gasoline into the water, or small explosives.

Among the measures that are legal because they do not harm the orcas and can deter them, the biologist pointed out the modification of the rudders "in a way that does not affect navigation but makes the rudder less fun and less attractive".

"For some reason, and we don't know why, orcas don't like vertical lines in the water," she added.

Another measure is real-time communication to boats about the location of groups of orcas, estimated to be five in this population whose habitat ranges from the Strait of Gibraltar to the waters off Galicia.

The Iberian subpopulation of killer whales is characterised by a rounded head, a black dorsal layer with little contrast, and feeds mainly on bluefin tuna.