FIELD STUDIES OF WHALES AND DOLPHINS IN FAXAFLÓI BAY, SOUTH-WEST COAST, ICELAND
Free ranging Minke whales, white-beaked dolphins, humpback and killer whales in the coastal marine waters of Reykjavik, Iceland are found to be individually identifiable from photographs of naturally occurring distinctive features. 295 individual Minke whales, 337 white-beaked dolphins, 52 humpback whales and 8 killer whales were recognized and observed using whale-watching boats (Elding whale-watching Company) from April-September from 2007-2010 in Faxaflói Bay, Reykjavik.
A preliminary analysis of cutaneous disorders, using our 2007-2009 set of images of minke whales and white-beaked dolphins in Faxaflói Bay revealed that infectious lesions seem to occur in both white-beaked dolphins and Minke whales, as well as scars or anthropogenic origin (Bertulli et al., et2009). Additionally, a recent collaborating with Jooke Robbins from the Provincetown Centre of Coastal studies revealed our humpback whale population in Faxaflói Bay shows signs of peduncle scarrings which have been used as sign of previous whale entanglement in fishing gear in the Gulf of Maine.
Important feeding grounds for both minke whales and white-beaked dolphins at the south-west coast have been located, where one is within the study area close to Syðra-Hraun in Faxaflói, and a second feeding ground is located a few miles outside of Garður and Keflavík. Both areas have been previously described as suitable feeding areas for minke whales and white-beaked dolphins (Rasmussen, 1999; 2004; Magnúsdóttir, 2007).
Minke whales display a wide range of well-known engulfment and entrapment feeding manoeuvres, although the first where more easily observed. L. albirostris foraging behaviour was found to be composed of a wide range of aerial behaviours among which most common were ‘noisy leaps’ (i.e. leaping, breaching, back-breaching, tail-slapping). L. albirostris foraging behaviour was primarily observed in multi-species groups of all occurring in particular in presence of humpback whales and minke whales. Significant correlations were found for minke whales and white-beaked dolphins recorded in association with different seabird species during feeding bouts.
The aim of this project is to provide future studies with Minke whales, white-beaked dolphins, humpback and killer whales in Iceland with a photo-catalogue of a few very distinct individuals.
In addition, our large photographic material could be used to assess population size using mark-recapture method , cetacean’s movements, patterns of residency and stability of group composition of Minke whales, white-beaked dolphins, humpback and killer whales within the whale-watching area in Faxaflói bay.
To continue monitoring heath status of Minke whales, white-beaked dolphins, humpback killer whales we will be able to use the photo-id method to assess prevalence of cutaneous disorders and previous entanglements in these cetacean populations.