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Rogue killer whale attacks: How the US Navy responds

A pod of killer whales. (Unsplash)
July 27, 2023

With the arrival of summer, rumored orca attacks on vessels navigating the Strait of Gibraltar generated concern, prompting questions regarding how the U.S. Navy responds to increased whale attacks.

According to Military Times, while reports of these majestic marine mammals causing damage and even sinking boats have led to rising concerns, the U.S. Navy’s standpoint remains steadfast: combat with these creatures is off the table.

Lt. Andrew Bertucci, from the Navy Office of Information, recently clarified the Navy’s approach, “The U.S. Navy is committed to the protection of marine mammals and the marine environment. The Navy implements mitigation procedures, developed in conjunction with the National Marine Fisheries Service, during training and testing activities to identify the presence of marine mammals near vessels and respond appropriately to avoid effects.”

Highlighting the Navy’s responsive approach, Bertucci explained that activities potentially affecting marine mammals are often ceased or modified until the animal is at a safe distance.

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Additionally, the Navy actively develops programs, such as the Marine Species Awareness Training and the Protective Measures Assessment Protocol. These initiatives aim to equip sailors with the necessary training and tools for environmental protection.

If a U.S. Navy vessel encounters a large whale, it’s often the mammal that is in danger, not the ship. Past experiences have shown the lethal impact human activities can have on marine life. For instance, according to, sonar use was linked to whale deaths in the early 2000s.

More recently, in 2021, the Navy had to review its policies following the death of two fin whales during a joint exercise with the Australian Navy in Southern California.

Although there has been a surge in orca interactions in Spanish and Portuguese waters, experts believe these events are infrequent and unlikely to involve motorized boats or military vessels.

Renaud de Stephanis, president and coordinator at CIRCE Conservación Information and Research, told the Washington Post, “The game is very simple. If there is a rudder, they push it and break it.”

This news article was partially created with the assistance of artificial intelligence and edited and fact-checked by a human editor.