The North Atlantic Marine Mammal Commission


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Research in NAMMCO member countries

Research projects in the wild

Fin whales, which are largely pelagic and rarely seen in groups near coasts in the NAMMCO area, are difficult to study in the wild. Except for sightings surveys dedicated to large baleen whales, where also fin whales are targeted, there are very few research projects dedicated to living fin whales. Incidental fin whale sightings are recorded in opportunistic sighting databases in the four NAMMCO countries.

Satellite tagging of fin whales has been attempted with more or less success in most countries: Faroe Islands (Mikkelsen et al. 2007), Greenland (Heide-Jørgensen et al. 2003) and Iceland (Watkins et al. 1984, 1996). However, at present there is no project ongoing, because of the limited success in tagging fin whales.


Simon et al. (2010) have recently completed a study, which shed new light on the migratory pattern and habitat use of fin whales in the Davis Strait, between Greenland and Canada. They monitored the whales' acoustic activity using three bottom-moored acoustic recorders over a 2-year period and showed that the whales are present in the area from June to December and thus migrate south much later than previously believed (See under Migration for more details).


During different field projects, the Norwegian Institute of Marine Research collects biopsy samples and photo-identifications of whales and dolphins, and when opportunity arises also fin whales (Grønvik et al. 2009, 2010).

Research projects connected to catches


Iceland resumed commercial whaling in 2006. The Icelandic Marine Research Institute took the opportunity of collecting data from the catch in order to compare with information gained prior to 1990 and initiated the research project: "Study on the life history parameters and feeding ecology of fin whales off West Iceland in 2006–2010 and comparison with previous information"

The objective of the study is to obtain information on the life history parameters (growth and reproduction), feeding ecology and energetics of fin whales from the whaling grounds west of Iceland for comparison to information obtained prior to 1990 (Víkingsson 1990, 1995, 1997, Víkingsson et al. 1988, Lockyer and Sigurjònsson 1992). Samples were collected from all of the 132 fin whales caught in 2006 and 2009 and will continue in the 2010 whaling season. Analyses are ongoing.

This study is of special interest due to the observed changes in the ecosystem in Icelandic waters and increased abundance of fin whales in the area in recent years.