Meet the Minke Whales We've Known for Over 15 Years
In the waters of Faxaflói, minke whales are a common sight. Some individuals have been visiting us consistently for more than 15 years now. We'd like to introduce you to a few of these ‘regular’ minke whales and shed light on why their continued presence is a reason for hope, as well as a reminder of the importance of their conservation.
Fig. 1. Breaching minke whale - photo by Megan Whittaker
Common minke whales (Fig. 1) are known for their migratory behaviour. They tend to spend their spring, summer, and early autumn in Icelandic waters before heading to warmer areas in the winter for mating and giving birth. These whales are fast travellers; one minke whale, tagged in Faxaflói, was found 3,700 kilometres south, near Cape Verde after just 100 days. However, some minke whales choose to stay here around Iceland during the winter, possibly to save energy or because they're too young to mate, or for other reasons which are still a mystery to us.
Fig. 2. A minke whale swimming under an Atlantic puffin - photo by Miquel Pons
Iceland is an important feeding ground for common minke whales (and other baleen whale species), and we therefore can find thousands of them in our waters. Some individuals we might see only once, while others return almost every year for several months. Many minke whales lack distinct markings, so it's also likely that we've encountered the same, unmarked whales multiple times without realising it. Among the more than 150 minke whales that we have identified, however, we are getting to know some individuals very well. Four stand out in particular as we've seen them nearly every year for over a decade. These regulars are known as Midi, Humpie, Tap, and Teddy, easily recognisable by markings on their dorsal fins (see picture below). Their consistent presence highlights the idea of site fidelity, where certain whales develop a strong connection to specific areas, returning year after year.
Fig. 3. The dorsal fins of our four most frequently seen minke whales - photos by our guides
In the Table below, you can see the years in which these regulars made their appearances.
Table 1. Years in which the four regular minke whales were encountered at least once in Faxafloi (red marks years with sighting).
The fact that Teddy, Humpie, Tap, and Midi keep coming back underscores the importance of preserving the habitats that are vital for these beautiful animals. With challenges like climate change, pollution, and habitat degradation facing our oceans, it's crucial to protect the environments. Our commitment is to ensure that these four, and all other minke whales around Iceland and the world can continue to live in healthy surroundings and count on returning to the places that they need for their survival for many more years.
Fig. 4. A curious minke whale inspecting Elding's boat - photo by Cindy Schwenk
Blog by Eline van Aalderink