Photo: Elding Whale Watching Reykjavik / Guðlaugur Ottesen Karlsson

27 Jul WCA Partner has rare encounter with a Right Whale

On July 23rd 2018 WCA Partner Elding Whale Watching Reykjavik encountered a North Atlantic Right Whale during one of their whale watching tours off Iceland. This is the first time in Elding’s history they have sighted a Right Whale, a species rarely seen in Icelandic waters.

Known as the ‘Right’ whale to hunt due to their docile nature, slow surface skim feeding, their tendency to stay close to coastlines and their high blubber content, the Right Whale was hunted to near extinction and today remains one of the most endangered whales with only between 300 and 500 individuals left, predominantly off the east coast of North America.

In recent years there have been occasional sightings in the eastern North Atlantic between Norway, Ireland, Spain, Portugal and the Canary Islands and there were several sightings off Iceland in 2003. Such sightings are most likely to be of vagrant whales from the western North Atlantic rather than any remaining individuals from the functionally extinct eastern population.

Photo: Elding Whale Watching Reykjavik / Guðlaugur Ottesen Karlsson
Photo: Elding Whale Watching Reykjavik / Guðlaugur Ottesen Karlsson

In the hours that followed the sighting the photos taken by Elding allowed members of the right whale research team from Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life to identify the whale as a 10 year old male known as Mogul, born in 2008 to a whale known as Slalom. He was last seen off Stellwagen Bank off the coast of Massachusetts.

Over the last 30 years three different right whales have been identified in Icelandic waters, although all of those have some long gaps in their sightings unlike Mogul who has been regularly sighted along the eastern seaboard of the U.S and Canada. In recent years right whales have had to change where they go to feed, mainly in response to a rapidly changing ocean. Indeed it will be interesting to see if more whales are seen in Iceland in the coming months or even years.

This sighting sets an important milestone for Iceland’s whale watching history and brings some welcome positive news from the country following the recent controversy over a Blue Whale ‘hybrid’ that was killed by whalers earlier in the month.

Find out more about this sighting from Elding on their blog, and about the Right Whale catalogue at the Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life.

hoto: Elding Whale Watching Reykjavik / Guðlaugur Ottesen Karlsson
hoto: Elding Whale Watching Reykjavik / Guðlaugur Ottesen Karlsson
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