News 2008

24.11.2008 no herring and only a few orcas in the Vestfjord
this winter clearly shows that the times of orca safaris and research is over. the herring over winters far north and offshore, which is impossible for small boats to reach (see www.sildelaget.no). the few groups of orcas that enter the Vestfjord in search of herring are followed by an armada of whale watching boats and it became impossible for us to study these animals. we will not give up and keep searching the Vestfjord, but we expect the herring will move closer to shore in spring and we hope to be able to follow it then with a sailing boat. more to that later…

14+15.11 orcas deep in the Vestfjord, but not around Henningsvaer
yesterday and today whale watching boats found a small group of orcas deep in the Vestfjord (closer to Lodingen). we looked for whales closer to Henningsvaer, but we did not find any whales. we decided not to join the whale watching boats because there were already too many botas and we wanted to stay out of this orca group’s way.
it looks like there are really just a few groups of orcas coming into the Vestfjord this year. this seems to be a trend, since the herring does not come back this year either. we don’t want to be another whale watching boat stressing these few animals entering the fjord, so we will stop whale watching in the winter time!!
we decided to dedicate our time only to research and applying for research money, so we can study the orcas offshore, where the herring is.

5+6+7.11 orcas in the fjord, but nothing since
We had around 3 groups of orcas in the Vestfjord on the 5+6+7+.11, which were visiting former feeding places (Henningsvaer, Skrova and Bekenesholmen). This year there seems to be no herring in the fjord and the whales left without feeding. Since then we found no other groups. Ocean Sounds decided to stop taking people on our research trips. For our research the situation in the Vestfjord is wrong. Even if we find whales, the noise from the other boats makes sound recordings impossible. we wait this winter, but our new goal are the herring feeding grounds offshore. to get there we need a big and stable boat. At the moment we are looking for that.

05.11.2008 finally orcas in Henningsvaer!
today we received a phone call that a group of orcas was travelling just outside Henningsvaer and we saddled our boat to look for them. the animals were travelling slowly, maybe looking for herring. when we arrived there were already 3 whale watching boats, but one left at our arrival. however, one of the boat drove quite aggressively and at one time ran almost over them. this boat kept no distance to the whales and obviously did not follow the guidelines. that was a sad sight, i was hoping people were more aware…
it looks likes the guidelines need government reinforcement, otherwise it does not work.
i did not record any sounds of the whales and the noise of the boats was too much, so we returned soon.
it was good to see the whales, even if the conditions weren’t perfect. after the aggressive boat left, the whales stayed at the surface more often and the other boats could approach slowly.

01.11.2008 no killer whales in the Vestfjord
the search efforts of the last 2 days revealed no herring or killer whales in the Vestfjord. Yesterday was a beautiful day and we went out to listen for the calls, but heard only fishing boats searching for herring. most herring is fished way north of Andoya, see www.sildelaget.no
we hope that when the water gets colder, the herring will move closer to land and we will see some groups of killer whales. however, we are aware that it will not be in great numbers, since it is clear that the herring changed its winetr migration route.
well we did see 2 female seals yesterday, but they had no babies. many Auks were flying close around the island and some eagles were on the look out for fish.
The weather forecast for next week does not look good, a lot of wind and rain may stop us from searching the fjord

25.10.2008 stormy weather
due to stormy weather we could not go on any excursions and have therefore no news about the whales or the herring. the little herring that was fished, was caught way north from here. it remains a challenge to find whales in the Vestfjord and Tysfjord this winter.
more information once the weather has calmed down and we will be on our way.

6 – 21 October we close the center
From the 6th until the 21rst of October, we will close the center in Henningsvaer and will not offer any safaris.
We will open again on the 22 of October until mid December on request, so just give us a call or send an email. we start with our winter safaris around the 24th of October and stop mid December, you are welcome to join!
Ocean Sounds will be closed from mid December 2008 until May 2009.

29.09.2008 orca sightings in Vestfjord
we got report about a family of killer whales that was sighted outside Unstad on Lofoten 2 weeks ago and just 2 days ago a family was seen just outside Kabelvag. another groups was seen outside the island of Røst. we had a lot of bad weather and could not go out at sea to search. it seems that at least some groups of killer whales are in the area and we will have a fair chance to find them.
unfortunately the donations of this year were too few to finance any of the winter field work and we don’t know how many excursions we can afford this winter. we will keep you updated.

08.09.2008 all 6 grey seals were home again
finally today we saw all 6 grey seals, Nils the male, and the 5 females hanging out with him. they looked all healthy and we were happy to see them together again.

we did not hear or find any whales.

07.09.2008 5 seals on the rock

again we had beautiful weather and we went straight to check on the grey seals. we found all 5 females, most of them laying on the rock. Nils, the male was nowhere to see, he must have been off hunting.
I recorded the underwater sounds, but the seals were more interested in being above water, so they did not communicate underwater. it was good to see all 5 females again.
then we went out on the Vestfjord, and we heard dolphin whistles far away but did not find them, but we saw 2 puffins, which is rare during that time of the year.
we also saw around 10 young kittiwakes just outisde Henningsvaer.

05.09.2008 between 20-30 dolphins!!
today we were rewarded with a spectacular sight! we were searching for whales far out in the Vestfjord and I heard some far whistles of dolphins, but we could not see any dorsal fins. the hydrophone can pick up sound from over 10km and it is often impossible to find the whales. so we decided to look for the seals and on our way 20-30 Atlantic white sided dolphins swam in our way! they were really curious and came very close to our boat, the were bow riding, jumping, spy hopping and checking out my hydrophone. they stayed with us for 1 hour and left again. in between they were hunting for fish on the surface. thi8s tiem I could record frequencies all the way to 98kHz and found a lot of new whistels and clicks!
we discover more and more whale species in the Vestfjord..

pictures and sounds will follow…

31.08.2008 herring close to Henningsvaer
fishing boats caught herring just outside Henningsvaer! if herring comes so close the chances to see killer whales increases! we will be on the look out!

29.08.2008 three grey seals, no Nils..
today we saw the light female grey seal “Grete” again and two other females at their home island. one of the females looked very pregnant and we will continue to check on them regularly. it is a bit worrying that we have not seen the male “Nils” for the last 3 times we have been there. the seal hunt is officially open until the 15th of September and the quota for grey seals is very high (from Stad to Lofoten 755 animals!), so our grey seals could all become wiped out if people want…but we have never seen people hunting seals from Henningsvaer and the island are not important for fishing, so let us hope things go well. I will talk with poeple in the community and maybe we will be able to protect this small group of seals.

25.08.2008 only 2 grey seals
usually we see between 4-6 grey seals around an island we know, but today we encountered only 2 females. the big male Nils, that usually watches his 5 females, was not there. he was not there the last time we were at this home island either.. maybe they were out looking for fish, or maybe he was hunted by humans..
we will check on this seals now regularly since at least 2 females look pregnant.

23.08.2008 three killer whales were seen just outside Henningsvaer!
just when I came back from my 2 days off, I saw an email from tourists that have seen some whales outside Sandvika, not far from here..when I opened the picture I could clearly recognize the dorsal fin of a male killer whale!
they have seen them (3 killer whales) swimming towards Henningsvaer, too bad I was not home!
unfortunately the pictures weren’t good enough for Photo-ID, but it is excellent that people recognize the whales, take pictures, write down the position and contact me, thank you so much!

we were looking for them the day after, but they were gone. maybe they were looking for herring, and left after an empty search…

12.08.-21.08.2008 seals, eagles and porpoises
we still have plenty of tours and people really support us! we had very nice trips with good and not so good weather, were we encountered many different animals.
we were not lucky to find any whales out in the Vestfjord, but we could follow the last shag chicks, saw the first grey geese and many eagles that were looking for young birds….we lost 2 shag chicks to them.
we also could follow the common terns leaving their summer colony, now they are all on their way south, all the way to the south pole.
and we met the group of grey seals with the male Nils and his 3 girls. we hope we can witness them breeding in fall. these grey seals are very curious and came close to the boat to have a look at them. the hunting season for seals still continues until the 15th of September and we hope all seals will be spared! we will look for them later this evening.
we also saw Oscar, but with only one female, the other female could have gone out fishing..
more info and pictures will follow once I have more time…sorry for the short news…I will have to hire a second biologist to help me next year!

10.08.2008 grey seal, harbour porpoises and white sided dolphins!!
we were extremely lucky today, first we saw a female grey seals, one of Oscar’s gang, then a group of harbour porpoises that were quite shy and just when we decided to turn back, a tourist saw a group of dolphins on the horizon!
it turned out to be 4 Atlantic white sided dolphins, 3 adults and 1 young. They were very curious about us and came very close to the boat and then they started jumping out of the water for almost 30 minutes! this was Sea World live!
then exhausted they swam very slowly ca 20m from our boat and rested. during the jumping I recorded a lot of different sounds, clicks, whistles and buzzes and calls, but when they were resting they were very quiet..
Not much is know about this species and we gained a little insight information about them on our special day.
I decided to use all the money we earned during this trip and buy new recording equipment that can record sounds up to the ultrasound frequencies.
Our research is solely financed by tourism and I want to thank everybody that supported us so far!
without you we would not be able to study and monitor the marine wildlife around Henningsvaer!

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03.08.2008 harbour porpoises and grey seals
during the last 6 safaris we saw between 8-5 grey seals and different groups of harbour porpoises in the Vestfjord. we managed to record sounds of the porpoises, especially a mother calf pair was very cooperative!
today the wind is too much and we wait for tomorrow to go out again and continue our research.

20.07.2008 finally harbour porpoises!
the sea was amazingly flat today and the sun was shining! and just outside Henningsvaer we found our first group of 3 harbour porpoises: 2 adults and 1 young. they swam in a circle around us and disappeared after 25 minutes, we continued further out on the fjord and could hear pilot whale whistles, but too far away, so we could not find them. but while we were searching another 3-4 harbour porpoises came our way! finally they are here. we know so little about these small whales, are they always in the same area? or do they move, and where to?
it was a special day at sea..

19.07.2008 beautiful day but no whales or seals
today we had a long tour, we picked up a group from Stammsund and drove a safari and drove them back to Stammsund. the weather was beautiful, the sea flat, I did not hear anything on the hydrophone, but that was due to the 2 hurtigruten ships crossing our way. we looked for a long time in the Vestfjord, but we were not lucky today. we saw some puffins that are still here in the fjord, they already started to change the colour of their feathers, which indicates that they are finished with breeding.

18.07.2008 Oscar and 2 females
today we did not find any whales, but we found the grey seal Oscar together with 2 females around the islands. they were quite shy and would not let us come too close. This is good, because of the damaging seal hunt along the Norwegian coast. I hope these seals will be able to be spared of this uncontrolled hunt with quotas that are way too high. For grey seals the hunting quota is calculated to be 25% of the whole population and that is not sustainable management. the hunt can be done wherever you see seals, as long as you get a quota. practically speaking if somebody gets a quota of 60 seals, this person can wipe out a whole seal colony. this is a example of “missmanagement” and it is very counterproductive in areas where people earn their money by seal safaris.

16.07.2008 young humpback whale!!
we had the most amazing encounter today! a young humpback whale was swimming into our path and we could see him travelling all along the shore. he even breached 2 times, which was an incredible sight!!
it is extremely rare to see humpback whales in the Vestfjord, usually they use the continental shelf to migrate north to the Barents Sea, where they feed during the summer months. maybe this young animal made a wrong turn and went in the Vestfjord.

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14.07.2008 Pilot whales!
today we were finally lucky and found the pilot whales!
we first went out on Vestfjord and listened with the hydrophone and I could clearly hear their whistles. so we went further out in the Fjord and found a group of 8 animals closely to the island of Skrova. it was amazing, the whales came close to boat and I could make wonderful and clear sound recordings! the whales stayed in this area for more than 1 hour and moved then more in the middle and out of the fjord.
this was the 3rd time I could record sounds and take Photo-ID from long finned pilot whales in the Vestfjord. none of them were the same animals and all the sounds and calls and whistles are different! we don’t understand the communication of pilot whales, there is great lack of studies. I hope with these studies I be able to start to understand the behaviour of these magnificent animals!

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12.07.08 Dolphins and mackerell
we were looking for oscar, but he was not home and while were driving from the one island group to another 2-3 dolphins passed us quickly, we saw them 3 times and then they were gone towards the north right into the wind and we could not follow them. instead we went out of the wind and move out on Vestfjord, we listened and I could hear some pilot whales in the distance, but the wind did not allow us to drive further out in the fjord to look for them.
we went around beautiful islands and returned to Henningsvaer.

09.07.08 Oscar and Arctic terns
we found Oscar, the male grey seal right were we always find him, there were many mackerells around his islands and he allowed us today to come quite close, to ca 20m. he was calm, but the female grey seal, which was around the second islands was very shy and we saw her only once.
we went out on the Vestfjord and lsitened for whales, but the Fjord was quiet today and then we went to an Arctic tern colony. at this island there are around 100 terns and also some black guillemots and 3 different kind of seagulls.

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07.07.2008 Drama in Vestfjord
Today we finally found a minke whale out in Vestfjord! he was alone and was swimming slowly. Unfortunately we were not alone, a whaling boat also detected the whale and started hunting it. the whale swam away from the boat, but showed no fear, he did not know that this boat can mean his death…
to our luck he swam closely to our boat and we hoped that the whaling boat would keep the same respectful distance to us than we do to him. but again we were wrong the whaling boat chased the whale agressiveley and drove right in front of us and shot him in ca 200m distcance form us!!! he probably wanted to show us how what tough guys they were…
but again this day was full of surprises, the whaler missed, and the whale swam away. the whale probably had damaged hearing and was maybe even more hurt through the blast wave!
we had enough and went back.
a few days later, people in Kabelvag reported a hurt whale was coming close to shore and I wonder whether it was our minke whale hurt from the whalers canon blast wave…
I really hope Norway will come to its senses soon and stop whaling! there is no economic value in it only sentimental value and that should not justify this action. Norway should rather put the money for all this whaling nonsense in education, for example the school in Henningsvaer has a swimming pool, which is really important for the kids living on an island, they need to learn how to swim! but the pool is closed since 5 years, because the local community has no money…

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04.06.2008 cormorant warning and Oscar
it looks like the Vagan community took our letter and pictures serious, they sent out a warning letter about the cormorants to all safari and activity operators and to Destination Lofoten. it came too late for this year, but I will send them a reminder next year!
on our safari, we did not find any porpoises and I start to get worried. but we did find Oscar the male grey seal, on exactly the same spot we saw him last year. it feels good to know that he is still around…
first groups of mackerell arrived in Henningsaver and I hope we will soon see some marine mammals feeding on them.

02.07.2008 new partnership with the Lofoten Nature Center in Svolvaer
we are looking forward to a partnership with the Lofoten Nature Center in Svolvaer. The Center exhibits all aspects of Nature on Lofoten, plantlife as well as animal life and life in the sea. You will soon be able to book our safaris already in Svolvaer at the Center. this partnership will be a great combination to offer you a full nature experience and a possibility to gain deep knowledge about our vulnerable and beautiful nature of Lofoten.

29.06.2008 greyseal, guillemots and cormorants without eggs…
today we went to the Islands outside Valberg, which are regularly visited by local people and other safaris. Unfortunately the report of a tourist that joined a safari was true, the cormorants deserted their nests and breeding island again. all of the almost 100 animals were sitting on a second island further away. None of them had eggs or young.
This is a sad story, since the same thing happened last year (and maybe many years before) and it is only a matter of time until these 2 breeding colonies die out. These islands need full protection during the hatching period. These Islands are also important for many seagulls, guillemotts and different species of ducks for breeding.

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This is what happens if the birds are scared  and leave their nests: the seagulls steal their eggs…
(picture was taken in 2007)

on other islands we saw a female grey seal, which we know well. it was great to see that she was still around! we also saw 4 herons, which are new to the area and a female eagle was sitting on shore, waiting in vain for us to feed her…

28.06.08 orcas but no more cormorants…
3 orcas were swimming outside Henningsvaer, were they on a summer visit? or did they find some herring in the fjord? we don’t know, but hope to see them again soon..

bad news are that the cormorants on the islands close to Valberg did not succeed to have young this year. cormorants are very shy and fly off, leaving their nests unprotected when a boat comes by. The Islands are regularly visited by local eagle safaris, because there are some seals. also local people and tourists with privtae boats have been spotted at those islands. this boat traffic will definetely disturb the birds and as soon as they leave their nests (which some safari operators will sell as a beatiful sight…) seagulls will move in and steal their eggs. the same thing happened last year and it is a matter of time that the cormorants here will die out. I have reported it to the local community, but they haven’t done anything. these islands and birds need full protection!
please help us by “educating” boat drivers about this problem, thank you!

14.06.2008 beautiful weather, calm sea, but no whales
yesterday and today we went out on safaris, looking for whales. the sea was flat calm and the conditions perfect, but we neither heard nor saw whales, the fjord was empty.
we had very nice customers on board that enjoyed the nature, the puffins, otter and a beautiful day at sea.
we will search again on Monday!

12.06.08 yellyfish invasion and stop of whaling
yellyfish (periphylla periphylla) have been invading the northern fjords and can become a threat to small organisms and fish. this may be a sign of wamer waters this year..
Also today the whaling was stopped because the storage halls were full and there is no demand of whale meat! this happens every year and it clearly shows that the economic marked of whale meat is really small, why bother then?
Well, Iceland and Norway have also broken an CITES rule and exported whale meat to Japan, maybe they hope to make big bucks with Japan? Will they ever stop?

08.06.2008 Safari and whales in the Vestfjord
during the last 2 weeks researchers have been around Lofoten and in the Vestfjord, looking for whales. I have received a message that there were loads of pilot whales, 4 sperm whales, a fin whale and some dolphins in the fjord.
Today we had interested tourists to join our safari, so we could afford to go out and have a look. we spent 4 beautiful hours at sea and we even heard the pilot whales whistling, but we did not find them. we met a whaler and he said that he has the whales just one hour before we arrived. what bad luck!
we kept searching but were unfortunate and returned back to Henningsvaer.
we saw hundreds of puffins out at sea. I hope these are not parents from the island Røst, looking for food. last year a lot of young puffins died because the parents did not find enough food..
we hope for more people to support us and good weather, so we can continue our search and work.

16.05.08 open again!
from today on we have the center open again. our boat is unfortunately not yet finished and we can only offer safaris after the 26.05.08. but you can come for a visit, watch a film or listen to lectures.
at the moment spring is here and the sun is shining, my flowers crawl out and grey geese fly over Henningsvaer.

the whalers are also active again and already shot 2 of the allowed 10 minke whales that can be shot this year in the Vestfjord. the total quota is 1025 animals, what for?

killer whales were sighted twice, 2 weeks ago deeper inside the Vestfjord outside Loedingen and last Saturday further north in a place called Eidsjord. Maybe we will be lucky this year and meet them in the Vestfjord?

welcome!

29.03.2008 new pictures in the gallery!
please visit the gallery for new pictures from last winter and summer and this spring!

24.03.2008 we are closed until the 5th of May

We will take the boat out of the water for maintenaince and do some renovation int the center and will therefore close until the 5 th of May.
There will be no more news on the website until then as well.

Due to the high request I also have to note that we cannot accept any more volunteers for 2008.

Last Wednesday we got another report of a group of killer whales being under the bridge of Sortland on Vesteralen. The pictures were not good enough for Photo- ID and we could not recognize the group. we hope to be able to study these groups that obviously did not follow the herring on its migration to the open North Atlantic.

16.02.2008 killer whales in the Sortlandsundet
I have recieved a note that on the 15th of february a dead killer whale was found on the neighbor islands of Vesteraalen. It was quickly removed and my friend could not look at it or take pictures. the next day a group of killer whales came into the fjord, maybe it was the dead killer whales’ family group?
I have no information on who and where the dead whale was taken and why it died. Please let me know if anybody has more news about it. thank you!

28.02.2008 cod spawning time began
the fish factories in Henningsvaer have begun their work in cleaning and hanging the cod that was fished outside in the Vestfjord. the traditional “skrei” fishing (cod that comes migrating from the Barents Sea) has been declined during the last few years. over the last century the cod fishing was essential of the life in Henningsvaer, but nowadays the “skrei” does not come into the Vestfjord anymore in great numbers. the cod that is fished in the Vestfjord and around Henningsvaer is mostly coastal cod. unfortunately coastal cod is heavily overfished and ended up on the Norwegian Red List. this is the reason why the area around Henningsvaer is closed for fishing, to protect the coastal cod population. but coastal cod is also in the area where “skrei” is fished (outside of Lofoten) and there are no restrictions. the fishermen from the Vagan community are therefore negativley affected by the conservation effort of the coastal cod around Henningsvaer. there are only a couple of boats in the harbour of Henningsvaer today, a sad sight. it will take years to recover the cod population around Henningsvaer and let us hope the fishermen will be patient enough.
the reason why the “skrei” does not come into the Vestfjord anymore is not known but many theories are around. one theory claims the global warming of the sea, that will make skrei spawn further north. some say it is the food availabilty on the outside of Lofoten (cod feeds on other fish, it is the most effective fish predator in the north Atlantic). others claim overfishing (cod is fished out on its way to Lofoten). probably all theories are right and as usual it is a combination of them all.
during the next few weeks we will take our boat out and listen to spawning cod, maybe there is more activity than we know…

12.02.2008 winter report 2007

Winter 2007-2008 report

The winter season of 2007 / 2008 was characterized of a change in the herring’s distribution pattern and a lot of bad weather. Since the early 80’s the herring came into the Vest- and Tysfjord every winter and with it came a round 500-600 killer whales. It was a paradise for whale watching and killer whale research!
However the times have changed as was predicted for many years. During the last 3 years we could already see a decline in herring and killer whale distribution during the winter time in Vest- and Tysfjord, but nobody believed the change could come so suddenly. This year there was almost no herring entering the Vestfjord and the few groups of killer whales entering the Vestfjord, were mostly traveling and resting. In addition a lot of bad weather was making it difficult to find the whales.
The reason for the change in herring migration is not understood and few theories may explain this phenomenon. The change in population density and size of the herring may play an important role: the herring showed the same migration pattern during the later 60’s, when herring was plenty (14 mill tons).  However, after the overfishing during the late 60’s and early 70’s the remaining 50 000 tons of herring moved into the fjord system of the Vestfjord. Due to a stop and reduction of the herring catch quotas the herring recovered and is now back in population size of the pre-collapse years (12 mill tons). This may be the reason why the herring spent the winter in the open sea and not in the protected fjords. Herring fishing this season has been the best since the 60’s!
In addition the water temperature is rising due to global warming and it may influence the herring in over wintering further north, where water temperatures are lower.
It is highly unlikely that the situation will return to previous years and we have to adapt to the new situation. This will be a problem for many whale watching companies and seeing an orca will become a very special event!
Also our research project has do be adapted to the new situations. Our challenge lies in studying and understanding the new situations.

This is a short summary of the last season’s whale sightings:
The season started on the 28.09.2007 when 3 killer whales (2 males, one female) were seen traveling in Henningsvaer outside the lighthouse, they were swimming towards the Vestfjord. Later on the 9 + 10.10.2007 a fishing boat has seen several groups of killer whales not far from Henningsvaer! There was some herring in the fjord and our hopes elevated. But in late October the herring moved north of Vesteralen, ca 180nm off the coast, which is too far away for any whale watching boat. The first report from whale watching boats was received on the 28.10.2007, when they have seen a large group of killer whales slowly traveling in Vestfjord.
Then after that there have been regular reports on whale sightings. And on the 2 and 3.11.2007 whales were outside Stammsund, feeding on herring! We recognized the group, they were also seen in June outside Vesteralen. In the beginning there were many boats close by and the sound recordings were terrible. But later the boats left and we could record clear calls (listen to the sounds of carousel feeding killer whales).
Whales were seen all through November but it was the only time they were observed them feeding. The other groups were searching for herring, but left the fjords after a few days, because there was no herring…
End of November we got company of another research groups (Dr. Patrick Miller and Co), and we doubled our effort to find the whales. Unfortunately we faced a lot of bad weather. However the research team could make it out on the fishing fields far off the coast and could report hundreds of killer whales feeding out there. It was frustrating to know, that we were not able to make it that far with our small boat. We kept searching the Vestfjord and had a few more sightings in December, but then our luck stopped.
Whale watching boats operating deeper in the fjord could still see some whales in the end of December and some in the beginning of January. We saw the last group of whales on the 3rd of January. It was a group that was well known.
In January the herring moved by the outside of Lofoten and if we would have had a bigger boat we could have made it out there, but our hands were once again bound. The fishermen told us that there were many killer whales all around them, feeding from their nets and that they have never fished so much herring than this year.
Now, on the 11.02.2008 the herring has left Lofoten and is at its spawning grounds further south in Møre and Romsdal.

Whale Watching:

This was a great year for the fishing industry and probably for the whales, but it was difficult for both our research and the whale watching industry.
Since whale watching has been going on unregulated, we created new whale watching guidelines together with the WWF in Norway. I sent them to all operators before the season started to get their feedback and to test the guidelines. Often we could see whale watching boats trying hard to follow the guidelines and some were discussing them with others, but not all followed them and then soon it all collapsed…
Our challenge for the future seasons is to make the operators understand why the guidelines are so important and why all of them have to follow them, it does not work if there is one boat that does not follow them. We will try to introduce them again next season and hope people have learned their lesson and will voluntarily follow them. Since there will be less whales entering the fjords, the pressure through whale watching boats will increase and following our guidelines will be ever more important.

Click here for our new Guidelines!

whale watching guidelines Ocean Sounds and WWF 2008 english:
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whale watching guidelines Ocean Sounds and WWF 2008 norsk:
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Whale watching has established here in Northern Norway many years ago and it has become an important part of the tourist industry on these remote islands. Whale watching also has done a lot to protect these animals, by making people aware about heir unique biology and presence. In return I have never seen so many happy faces than on a whale watching boat.
And here is one of my favorite encounters: a blind man came into my center last winter and told me his story; they were searching for the whales but could not see them. Then the whale watching guide came up to him and asked where he thinks the whales were, whether he can “feel” their presence. He was at first very surprised that she asked him that but then he tried to “see” them and he was right, the whales were exactly where he pointed his finger to. This is not a single incident; in fact it happens quite often.
When you work closely with wild animals you get tuned to their presence and it seems like they are communicating with you on a different level, with a language that is older than words.

During the next months I will analyze the data I collected and will be able to give you an update in May on who was visiting the fjords and what kind of calls the whales were producing and how boat noise from whale watching boats influence the whales’ vocal behavior.

Thanks to everybody that helped us in 2007 and to all the photographers that lend us their pictures for Photo-ID research!

11.02.2008 Heike Vester, Biologist at Ocean Sounds

22.01.2008 the otter that was a sealbaby…
today was the most beautiful day of this year (so far..). we had the full moon and the sun shining at the same time and no wind at all. the sea was flat calm and the visibility great.
Anja told me that a small seal was in the harbour, in fact it has been around the cabin the whole time. it turns out that the otter seen by the other assistances all winter was in fact a small harbour seal that moved to the Henningsvaer harbour. Unfortunately the harbour is not the best choice because of all the pollution in it.
The seal swam in a lake of oil and gasoline…
But the kids of Henningsvaer love the little guy (or girl) and we will have to find a name soon. I hope he will stay for a while and that the children learn to appreciate this little guy (or girl).
Not far from there even the big grey seal “oscar” showed up, now we have at least 2 different kind fo seals: harbour seals and grey seals!
However, we have not seen killer whales for a while. The herring is slowly moving south and is between Roest and Bodo now. If we just had a bigger boat, we could just go there and have a look…maybe next winter…

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17.01.2008 end of the season is near
the herring is still on the outside of Lofoten and the Island of Røst, but killer whales have not been seen inside the fjord. the herring is in a few days moving southwards towards Møre in Norway to spawn and will not return to the northern norwegian coast before next fall.
our season has not been good for research: there were only a few whale groups (so far we only have identified 10 groups) and they have been mostly travelling and searching. under these behaviours they do not produce many calls, only a few whistles and clicks. for our data base this season was terrible, but we learned a great deal about the changes of distribution of the whales. it will be interesting to follow the next seasons and find out where the herring and the whales will be moving to.
because it was so difficult to find the whales this year we will be reducing our “whale watching” offer to November only.

12.01.2008 update: boat shy whales and a sunny trip around lofoten
it seems that some whale groups are still coming into the fjord, but once they don’t find the herring (because that one is further in the north and on the outside of the Lofoten islands!!!), they move out again. on the 9+10th killer whales have been seen outside Lodingen, but they were boat shy, dived long and changed direction when whale watching boats apporached. out in lofoten only a young minke whale showed his appearance, but killer whlaes were not even found with the herring on the outside of lofoten (or we just missed them…). we had a fantastic trip today: we went out on vestfjord along the lofoten islands and took the nappstraumen to the outside, where weather conditions were ideal! the sea was like a mirror! we saw lots of different birds and saw herring fishing boats, but we missed the whales. tommorrow will be our last try, we are running out of gasoline money…and then the season will be over for us.

04 + 05.01.2008 more wind and no whales
here we go again, after a couple of days with nice weather the wind picked up again and it was impossible to find whales!
next week will be our last chance to meet up with the whales before they go south, following the herring along the norwegian coast…

03.01.2008 an old “man” on the sea!

today we the weather was nice and we received a faithful telephone call from Cathy, a friend and guide from Orca-Lofoten, when they spotted killer whales just outside the Island of Skrova at 10:40.
It was a group we know well, an old male (more than 28 years) with many deep nicks on his dorsal fin, Tiu Similas N-8. the group was travelling, sometimes spreading out, propably searching for herring. we have photo-ID pictures and behavioural data from today, finally a successful and beautiful day!
we will try to find them again tomorrow, if the weather and the whales allow us.

02.01.2008 a new year and whales are here!

since 27th of december there were killer whale sightings almost every day. it seems that some groups finally came into the fjord. some herring was fished outside henningsvaer and maybe a small part of the herring popultion did make into the fjord. we cannot identify all the whales yet, since the pictures we have received are too blurry, if you have been on a whale watching safari or know somebody, please contact us if you have pictures of the whales: inof@ocean-sounds.com
today the wind picked up again and we are forced to stay at land. we  hope to be able to see the whales a few more times before they follwo the heriing south.