Visitors to Eyjafjörður fjord in North Iceland could be lucky enough to meet with the spectacle of up to 20 humpback whales currently sojourning there, reports RÚV. An expert at the Marine Research Institute says the humpback whale population is growing rapidly, while a whale watching company operator claims that humpbacks are by far the most fun to watch.
Árni Halldórsson, one of the owners of Whale Watching Hauganes, the oldest whale watching company in Iceland, claims that the whale watching situation is exceptionally good.
“The majority of the whales are humpbacks, which are the most fun to see,” stated Árni. He estimated that there were about 20 whales to be found from around Hrísey island in the northern part of the fjord and further in. “They have come an unusually long way into the fjord this summer,” stated Árni. The ‘capital of the North,’ Akureyri, is located at the bottom of the fjord.
Árni says that the whale population is increasing year by year. There are also porpoises, minke whales and dolphins to be seen swimming around in the fjord. “When we started our whale watching tours in 1993, we did not see humpback whales the first few years. Their numbers started increasing considerably around 2000, and from 2011 we were spotting them on every single trip.”
An adult humpback whale measures between 13 to 17 meters long and weighs up to 40 tons. They mostly eat plankton, krill and small fish, and have been on the endangered species list since 1956.
Gísli Víkingsson, a marine biologist at the Marine Research Institute, says the humpback whale population is growing steadily. The population has increased sevenfold since 1987, when there were around 2,000 of the whales, to an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 today.
“At the same time, there has been a sharp decline in the numbers of minke whales along the coast of Iceland. So it seems that humpbacks have been taking over this area in recent years,” mused Gísli.
Humpback whales have a tendency to leap high up into the air and slap their tails and fins on the ocean’s surface on the way down. However, nobody knows for sure the meaning of this.
“It is believed to be connected to their relationships with one another—whether that be to let other whales know where they are or to keep them at bay, or whatever. Nobody knows the exact reason,” explained Gísli. “But it is a great spectacle and they are naturally the most fun whales to spot by far while out whale watching, precisely because of this special breaching behavior of theirs on the surface of the ocean.”