November 9, 2018: Free public lecture at the end of the SC meeting

In connection with NAMMCO celebrating 25 years of work in our Scientific Committee, a public lecture is being offered on the topic:


Whales are ecosystem engineers – fact or fake?

The management of whales and seals is a controversial issue internationally. The nations of the North Atlantic that hunt marine mammals (such as Norway, Iceland, Greenland and the Faroe Islands) are committed to ensuring that the practice is both sustainable and responsible. In recent years, those opposing the hunting of whales and seals have claimed that whales operate as ecosystem engineers, playing a crucial role in maintaining ecosystem structure and function, and emphasized this as an important argument against hunting. This talk will explore the validity of the claim that whales act as ecosystem engineers.


Summary of Talk

Some of the engineering activities attributed to whales include the pumping of nutrients back to the surface water (stimulating primary production) and supplying the deep sea with food (carcasses). It is clear that whales help shape nutrient cycling, the carbon pump and carbon sequestration. However, placing the activity of whales into a wholistic ecosystem perspective suggests that their role in these activities is insignificant. This is particularly true for the North Atlantic and Pacific. Furthermore, the selection of the term engineering may not be appropriate to describe what is going on. The use of anthropocentric jargon in science, eagerly picked up by media and environmentally concerned citizens, does not support knowledge-based ecosystem and resource management.


The talk will be given by Paul Wassmann, Professor of Marine Ecology at UiT – The Arctic University of Norway.

Prof. Wassmann is an international expert in marine ecology. He has been involved in a host of Norwegian, Nordic and EU research projects, and lead the EU FP7 project Arctic Tipping Points. He has been chairman of the board of the Nansen Legacy project and is currently the head of the world-leading research group Seasonal Ice Zone Ecology (ArcticSIZE). He has participated on more than 30 cruises to Svalbard and the Arctic Ocean and initiated and organized the Pan-Arctic ecosystem integration symposia.

Prof. Wassman will be introduced by Dr. Tore Haug, Chair of NAMMCO’s scientific committee and leader of the Marine Mammal Research Group at the Norwegian Institute of Marine Research. Dr. Haug will also briefly describe the work of NAMMCO and its scientific committee, including the role they play in the management of marine mammals in the North Atlantic.


Location: the FRAM Centre, Auditorium Longyearbyen

Time: Friday 16th November, 15:15-16:00

See also our Facebook event.

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