Research Area: Environment

NNor-Whales: Northern Norwegian large Whales Habitat use and effects of coastal disturbances

Project Number: 6169
Project Duration: 01.08.17 - 31.07.20

Project Director: Prof. Audun Rikardsen (UiT) & Dr. Marie-Anne Blanchet (UiT)


The Norwegian coastal zone is subject to intensive human activities, such as shipping, fishery and tourism. These areas are also frequently visited by humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) and killer whales (Orcinus orca). During the winter, whales are particularly abundant, as they follow the Norwegian Spring Spawning (NSS) herring (Clupea harengus), that aggregate in fjord systems along the north Norwegian coast. In this project we aim to quantify the overlap between anthropogenic activities and two whale species, and the potential disturbances that may result from this overlap. We aim to study whale movement and human activities on two spatial scales, a fine scale, which is refined to the fjords near Tromsų, and an intermediate scale which is focused on the Norwegian continental shelf.  




Killer whales (Photo: Evert Mul)



Since 2010, large aggregations of humpback and killer whales have been observed in the Troms region during the winter, providing a unique opportunity to study their movements and the interactions between the various actors. Between 2013 and 2017 a total of 45 humpback whales and 25 killer whales have been tagged with satellite transmitters (Argos) or VHF data loggers (GPS) in previous winters. Environmental characteristics, such as water flow, depth, temperature, salinity and prey distribution etc. have been recorded during the same timeframe as the whale tagging, specifically for the fjords near Tromsų. We have access to AIS data (Automatic Identification System) and detailed fisheries data for the same time frame as the telemetry data. 




Figure 1 - long distance whale tracking (several months). Left: Humpback whales, right: killer whales.



These datasets will form the basis of species distribution models and individual based models for humpback whales, killer whales, and various anthropogenic activities. These models enable us to simulate different intensity scenarios of coastal activities. It can be regarded as a risk-assessment tool for various stakeholders involved in Norwegian marine spatial planning.



PhD: Evert Mul

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