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  • Writer's pictureElding's research team

Minke whale abundance: March-August 2019

Minke whales were our most frequently sighted species in the summer of 2019. By using the simple, non-invasive method of photo-identification we can estimate the actual abundance in Faxaflói. We are working on all the data we have collected in 2019 (currently we are up to August 2019) and getting some great insights already!

With 522 minke whale encounters over the course of the year, some of them are bound to be the same individual. There are three things we need to consider when “counting” the minke whales we have seen. One is the identifiable minke whales, which have nicks and notches in their dorsal fins, making them easily recognizable and countable. Then there are those without any nicks and notches, “clean” fins so to speak, unidentifiable minke whales and thirdly ones of which we do not have high quality photos or photos at a wrong angle. That certainly cannot be avoided when working with wildlife that is free to move as it pleases but it makes it even greater when you get excellent photos to use for research.

Methods have been developed to calculate the numbers nonetheless, using calculation models for what is called a mark-resight analysis. Using it, we can conclude that just from February to August 2019 we have resighted 19 identifiable minke whales and 30 unidentifiable minke whales. On top of that come even more minke whales that were new to the bay! Four new identifiable minkes and likely another 5 unidentifiable minkes.

And the best result so far? A minke whale we call Coffee that was last seen in the area in August 2011 was sighted again in August 2019 - 8 years and 7 days apart! What a wonderful surprise.

Article summary by head research coordinator Sabrina Voswinkel



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