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Japanese whalers kill over 200 whales in commercial hunt

Japanese whalers kill over 200 whales in commercial hunt

Japanese whalers returned to port today after completing the first commercial hunt since Japan left...
More Success! WDC’s negotiations with travel giant TripAdvisor pay off

More Success! WDC’s negotiations with travel giant TripAdvisor pay off

Online travel giant, TripAdvisor is to stop the promotion of whale and dolphin captivity shows,...
Norway’s whaling future uncertain after survey shows little domestic appetite for whale meat

Norway’s whaling future uncertain after survey shows little domestic appetite for whale meat

The future of Norway’s whaling industry appears to be in serious doubt as it struggles...
Financial worth of whales revealed

Financial worth of whales revealed

Policymakers and economists at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have placed a substantial value on...
5 Year Fight for Critical Habitat for Southern Resident orcas

5 Year Fight for Critical Habitat for Southern Resident orcas

Orcas off the Olympic Coast of Washington (National Marine Sanctuaries) Expanding critical habitat for Southern...
SeaWorld parts company with another CEO

SeaWorld parts company with another CEO

Troubled marine park operator, SeaWorld has parted company with yet another CEO. Gus Antorcha, who...
Antibiotic resistance in dolphins mirrors trend seen in humans

Antibiotic resistance in dolphins mirrors trend seen in humans

Samples collected from dolphins by scientists over a 12 year period indicate that dolphins may...
Senate Leaders Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Save the North Atlantic Right Whale

Senate Leaders Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Save the North Atlantic Right Whale

After a deadly summer for North Atlantic right whales, Senators Booker (D-NJ), Isakson (R-GA) and...

Iceland 2013: Saga #7 – Orca Research

Dr Filipa Sammara from the Marine Research Institute in Reykjavik and her team from the University of St Andrews in Scotland are currently in Grundarfjordur studying the orcas that spend the winter hunting for herring in the local fjords.

Dr Filipa Sammara

Dr Filipa Sammara

Here, Filipa explains the research goals.

The aim of the project is to study how the feeding behaviour of Icelandic orcas changes within the same population. Icelandic orcas feed mainly on herring and appear to follow the herring in its migration during the year. At different times of the year the behaviour of the herring changes, depending on whether it is spawning, in the summer, or overwintering, in the winter. Over the last few years herring has been coming to the waters of Grundafjordur to overwinter and orcas were observed feeding on herring in this area in 2011. By taking photo-identification pictures and making acoustic recordings we can identify the whales that are seen in this area and investigate the sounds they produce during feeding. This data will then be compared to previous information collected in the summer in Vestmannaeyjar to investigate if the same whales are travelling between the two areas to feed on herring and how their feeding behaviour varies at different times of the year. This will greatly increase our knowledge of the Icelandic orca population and how they adapt to changes in their prey behaviour.  

Male orca Westmann Islands

Male orca, Westmann Islands seen in the summer off the south coast of Iceland

Male orca Grundarfjordur

The same male seen in Grundarfjordur on the west coast in the winter.

It is estimated there are 6,618 orcas in Icelandic and offshore waters and a photo-ID catalogue dating back to the 1980’s has identified about 400 individuals. Recent studies along the south coast during the summer months have documented 123 orcas. Here in Grundarfjordur, after just one season, researchers have identified 24 individuals. 14 of these were ‘matched’ as the same orcas seen off the south in summer, two matched whales seen off the Snaefellsnes peninsula In the summer of 2008 and one matched with the orcas that were seen in the fjords in the east of Iceland in the 1980’s.