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Iceland Mag


Record numbers of humpbacks in Ísafjörður bay in the Westfjords

By Staff

  • Giants of the sea Humpbacks have increasingly made Ísafjarðardjúp bay in the Westfjords their home. Photo Whit Welles, Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

The numbers of humpback whales in Ísafjörður bay in the Westfjords have grown significantly over the past few years. According to locals this year set a record with more humpbacks sighted than any time in the past.

From sightseeing to whale watching
Sigurður Ómarsson told the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service, RÚV, he has never seen as many humpback whales in Ísafjörður bay in the Westfjords. He has spotted as many as seven or eight humpbacks in a single day this summer. There are not only more humpbacks in Ísafjörður bay, they also seem to stay over longer periods.

Related: Video: A humpback whale rocks a boat

Sigurður operates sightseeing tours by boat around the bay. Many magnificent fjords stretch inland from the bay, with dramatic cliffs and towering mountains, making sailing in Ísafjörður bay a memorable experience. However, Sigurður tells RÚV that although the original goal of the tours had been sightseeing they have gradually been transforming into whale watching expeditions.

Dramatic population growth
Gísli Víkingsson, a whale expert at the Icelandic Marine Research Institute, told RÚV one reason for the greater numbers of humpbacks in Ísafjörður bay was that their numbers had grown dramatically in Icelandic waters over the past years. Prior to 1980 there were very few humpbacks in the ocean around Iceland, but then something began to change.

When the whale population was counted in 1987 some 2,000 individuals were spotted, but since then their numbers had grown sevenfold. Currently the humpback population around Iceland is estimated at 14,000 animals.

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