King eider and renovation

News from Henningsvær: spring has come with cod migrating to Lofoten for their yearly spawning and eider ducks pairing up in the harbour and around the small islands. we even have a group of at least 7 pairs of king eider ducks, of which the males are very colourful. They can easily be spotted from land in between the other eider ducks (see pictures).

Our new Research Center is also coming along, the windows, roof & chimney are set and now we only miss isolation and interior work. We expect to move in after Easter :-)
More to that as renovation proceeds…

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2014 renovation of our new Center!

The count-down is running as renovations are moving forward…our new center in Henningsvaer will soon be ready to move in (soon = northern Norwegian time!)!
We are very much looking forward to our new place and especially to work together with our new partners the Lofoten Arctic Hotel and Full Steam. The building complex is called “Skata”, which used to be a island in front of Henningsvaer with a traditional fish factory. Now it is connected with a bridge to Henningsvaer, a road to Sauøya where Full Steam and Riksheims Fisk is stationed and a road to Engøya, the road leading to the E 10. You cannot miss it when you drive to Henningsvaer!

We plan to have a restaurant, exhibition and souvenir shop with an attached cinema room for our guests to learn more about whales and dolphins of Lofoten!
The attached research center will hold several working places for researchers and students, as well as a lab for our wet equipment. With almost 100m2 we can also give lectures to a larger crowd of people and organize seminars and conferences.
In addition there are beds for 56 guests in the whole complex with different standards.
Currently we are looking for partners with boats to organize marine wildlife tours.

Here is a picture of the building today and planned areas:

Sea of Whales Festival: 10 – 15.6.2014 at “Skata”, more info is coming…

We will update you here on our news as often as we can and we are looking forward to welcome you there (soon)!!

Whale Watching w Respect

Since November a lot of whales can be seen very close to land from Tromsø-Senja-Andfjord. Mostly Humpback whales and orcas are there to feed on the over-wintering herring, but fin whales and pilot whales can also show up.
In Norway no whale watching regulations exist, after the wild whale watching activity in Tysfjord and Lofoten in 2005-2007, we developed guidelines together with the WWF in the hope that people would understand and follow them for their own safety but also for the protection of the whales. Whales are easily disturbed by boat noise and close approaches of boats.
However, there are differences between boats and approaches, noisy boats, like large and fast (RIB) motorized boats should approach very slowly in order to minimize the underwater noise and if possible should shut down the engines when they are with the whales. Noisy boats, when going slowly can easily be heard by the whales and they will know exactly where you are even when it is dark.
Silent boats like sailing boats and kayaks are very different, because the whales cannot locate the boats with their listening skills and especially under low light conditions, like the Arctic winter, or while they are busy with feeding. Special caution is therefore given when you approach whales with silent boats in order to avoid collision! Knocking at the kayak or making noise on the sailing boat does help!

Unfortunately not everybody is following caution, a video from a German kayaker shows what can happened if you do not keep a safe distance and want to get into the middle of the action. This irresponsible whale watching is not only dangerous for the kayaker themselves, but also for the whales. If something happens to the people, the Norwegian government might persecute radical measurements, which could terminate whale watching all together!

So please, show respect and keep a safe distance to the whales when you go whale watching, there are many companies that are respectful to the whales, you may want to join them, because they have a lot of experience.

In 2014 we will conduct research on best practice of whale watching and marine wildlife tourism in northern Norway and we welcome any recommendation from you. If you want to share your experiences or your concerns, please send them to us on facebook or email:
Our goal is to be able to give recommendations, advice and create guidelines for specific vessels, actions and whale species under different behaviors.



2014 new challenges

2014 has started with a whole row of challenges, with the most important one being: how to find 9 000 Euro to pay off the boat loan that is due in April 2014?
Without the boat our research projects will stop!

Any ideas? Donations are very welcome!!

… and we are still waiting for our new center, renovations are moving forward, but it is far from completed, let us hope all will go well and we will be able to move in late spring.

For now, all we can do is wait and look out for possibilities...


Whales & herring in Lofoten

During the past days herring was moving southwards coming closer and closer to Lofoten from Tromsø. and today Orcas were seen from Unstad on the outside of Lofoten. Fishermen report a lot of herring and different whales that seem to pass Lofoten on the north side and move south to their spawning grounds in Møre and Romsdal. Strong eastern winds make it impossible to go there with our boat right now and we have to wait until the wind calms down….
If you see the whales from land or you have collected photos and videos earlier, please share them with us for our research projects. Any help is more than welcome! We have been studying whales in Lofoten since 2003 and have a big database of photos, sightings and sound. But we need to update it all the time to understand the whales migration patterns and surviving rates.

pleas send us an email ( or contact us on facebook.


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Pictures and sightings needed!

For our different research projects we depend on the help of others that have seen marine mammals and have taken pictures of them!
It is impossible for us to cover the whole area of Lofoten and northern Norway, and even other places of the North East Atlantic (we can’t be in all places at the same time :-( .
In general we are looking for sightings of marine mammals around Lofoten and the Vestfjord to monitor abundance and changes of distribution of marine mammals throughout the year (to know who is where and when, so we can identify why). We want to study what influences their distribution pattern and whether we can predict future sightings. This can help to further study their biology and understand their behavior, but also for people to find and observe them in the wild (responsible whale watching). Marine mammals are top predators and it can show us something about changes in the environment, and correlate it to climate change.
We will inform you about new findings and results.

We collect pictures for our different Photo-identification catalogs:
The largest catalog is our Killer whale Photo-ID catalog, which holds over 700 individuals.The next growing Photo-ID catalog we have is from long-finned pilot whales, which consist of over 300 individual whales.
And we hold a smaller catalogs for Atlantic white sided dolphins and harbor porpoises.

Please, if you have seen killer whales, pilot whales or dolphins in Norway, we ask you kindly to share them with us for our Photo-ID catalogs. The pictures will strictly be used for our research projects!
email us:

Thank you ! pilot-whale-group

New Partner: USEA

We have started a new partnership with USEA (Underwater Soft Encounter Alliance) for diving with marine mammals. Heike Vester will serve as patroller for encounters with orcas and other cetaceans. She has more than 15 years of experience with human / cetacean encounters both with whale watching / diving and research encounters. In addition she has been a diver herself since she was 18 years of age and owns a rescue diver certificate.
We hope to teach people how to softly encounter marine mammals at sea and make the experience “sustainable” for both the people and the cetaceans. Underwater encounters are different since you enter the world of the whales. It is essential to keep a good distance and be a good observer, any changes in behavior must be noticed and  the diver needs to be alert at all times.
If you are a diver and you want to encounter marine mammals we ask you to join our network.

Thank you!


29.11.2013 Humpback whales in Tromsø

Together with a German TV team we drove to Tromsø to join old friends on a diving boat (Strømsholmen diving and Orques sans frontiers) to look for whales close by. I heard so much about the feeding frenzy inside Kaldfjord, where so much herring is located that the oxygen levels are very low. but with the herring plenty of humpback whales and orcas were seen feeding on it.
On the last day of Stromsholen diving in the north I got a chance to join them and it did not even take half an hour, when the first humpback whales were seen and what a sight! two of these big whales (14m) breaches twice with their full body out of the water!
later we saw them feeding together, at least 10 humpback whales were herding the herring from below using a bubble net and coordinated feeding behaviour. we heard and saw the herring flying to the surface and the whales following closely, opening their large mouths and gulping herring and water inside. it was a sight I have never seen before and I did not expect it. unfortunately the waves were too high otherwise I could have recorded their sounds, which is something I am very interested in, how do they communicate their cooperative feeding behaviour?
Maybe if I can manage to collect enough research donations, I will be able to go out again in January…
However, the short day was full of action and we all were happy coming back on shore. the ZDF will show the film already 25.12 in Germany and Pierre put a small video clip on the net from that day, the link to the videoclip:

I will donate my picture to researcher Fredrik Broms for his Photo-ID database on humpback whales, if you have pictures as well please send them to him!

and finally here are some photos, enjoy:

16.11.2013 dead fin whale on Lofoten

..a young fin whale washed ashore dead 16.11.2013 in Hovsund on the outside of Lofoten. the whale was around 15m long and already partly decayed. it was impossible to see whether it was a female or a male, but it has been dead for a while before washing ashore. the jaw bones were totally crashed and twisted, which indicates that it was either killed by a collision whit a strong object (a ship) or it became damaged when washing ashore.
we could not open the stomach to look for plastic or other pollution, which could also be the cause of death. however we took skin and blubber samples as well as baleen samples.
In cooperation with the Univeristy of Bodø, we will start a database for tissues of stranded marine mammals with Prof Jarle Nordeide and Prof Truls Moum at the faculty of Bio-sciences and Aquaculture. Please report to us or send samples directly one of us for further analysis. we would like to understand marine mammal distribution and causes of strandings.

here are some photos:

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