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Clear WDC’s Amazon Wishlist for Giving Tuesday

The holiday season is knocking on our doors and Giving Tuesday is coming up soon!...
Fin whales are targeted by Icelandic whalers

Speaking truth to power – my week giving whales a voice

The International Whaling Commission (IWC) meeting is where governments come together to make decisions about whaling...
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Spout Spotters: Boater Safety Around Whales Online Course Launches

After countless hours behind the computer, bountiful snacks, and a few stress relieving walks with...
WDC team at UN Ocean conference

Give the ocean a chance – our message from the UN Ocean Conference

I'm looking out over the River Tejo in Lisbon, Portugal, reflecting on the astounding resilience...
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Stream to Sea: Orca Action Month 2022

This June was an exceptionally busy and exciting Orca Month, starting with a somewhat surprising...
We need whale poo ? WDC NA

Whales are our climate allies – meet the scientists busy proving it

At Whale and Dolphin Conservation, we're working hard to bring whales and the ocean into...

It’s Time To Breach The Snake River Dams

The Snake River dams were controversial even before they were built.  While they were still...
Nat Geo for Disney+ Luis Lamar

Five Facts About Orcas

Orcas, also known as killer whales, are one of the most recognizable and popular species...

Iceland 2013: Saga #4 – Herring Mass Mortality

When I arrived here at the end of January we were driving through the dark on our way from the airport to our hotel in Grundarfjörður. Just before we reached the village there was a distinctly fishy smell in the air as we drove across Kolgrafafjörður, a neighbouring fjord and one of the more predictable places to spot orcas. We were told that just before Christmas a mass mortality of herring had occurred where up to 30,000 tonnes of herring came ashore. To put this in perspective the entire national quota for landing Icelandic summer-spawning herring each year is in the region of 67,000 tonnes.

Nobody knows quite what happened but it may have something to do with the bridge that was built dissecting the fjord a few years ago. A long dyke was constructed either side of the fjord and the actual bridge that stands over the water is just a couple of hundred metres long, severely reducing the flow of water into and out of the inner fjord. It appears the waters have become anoxic i.e. depleted of dissolved oxygen, which is a phenomenon that occurs in areas where water exchange has been severely restricted.

Scientists from the Marine Research Institute in Reykjavik are currently here investigating the die-off and will try to pinpoint the exact cause of why thousands of tonnes of a commercially valuable fish such as herring have died of oxygen starvation. The only winners right now appear to be the birds – the white-tailed eagles, ravens and gulls are experiencing a bonanza! Update: As I write this we are getting a second mass mortality of herring in the same fjord. This time we believe 10,000 tonnes may have come ashore on the 2nd February.