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We need whale poo 📷 WDC NA

Whales are our climate allies – meet the scientists busy proving it

At Whale and Dolphin Conservation, we're working hard to bring whales and the ocean into...
Minke whale © Ursula Tscherter - ORES

The whale trappers are back with their cruel experiment

Anyone walking past my window might have heard my groan of disbelief at the news...
Boto © Fernando Trujillo

Meet the legendary pink river dolphins

Botos don't look or live like other dolphins. Flamingo-pink all over with super-skinny snouts and...
Risso's dolphin entangled in fishing line and plastic bags - Andrew Sutton

The ocean is awash with plastic – can we ever clean it up?

You've seen pictures of plastic litter accumulating on beaches or marine wildlife swimming through floating...
Fin whale

Is this the beginning of the end for whaling off Iceland?

I'm feeling cautiously optimistic after Iceland's Fisheries Minister Svandís Svavarsdóttir wrote that there is little...
Mykines Lighthouse, Faroe Islands

Understanding whale and dolphin hunts in the Faroe Islands – why change is not easy

Most people in my home country of the Faroe Islands would like to see an...

Dolphin scientists look like you and me – citizen science in action

Our amazing volunteers have looked out for dolphins from the shores of Scotland more than...
Atlantic white-sided dolphins

The Faroes dolphin slaughter that sparked an outcry now brings hope

Since the slaughter of at least 1,423 Atlantic white-sided dolphins at Skálafjørður in my home...

Iceland 2013: Saga #4 – Herring Mass Mortality

When I arrived here at the end of January we were driving through the dark on our way from the airport to our hotel in Grundarfjörður. Just before we reached the village there was a distinctly fishy smell in the air as we drove across Kolgrafafjörður, a neighbouring fjord and one of the more predictable places to spot orcas. We were told that just before Christmas a mass mortality of herring had occurred where up to 30,000 tonnes of herring came ashore. To put this in perspective the entire national quota for landing Icelandic summer-spawning herring each year is in the region of 67,000 tonnes.

Nobody knows quite what happened but it may have something to do with the bridge that was built dissecting the fjord a few years ago. A long dyke was constructed either side of the fjord and the actual bridge that stands over the water is just a couple of hundred metres long, severely reducing the flow of water into and out of the inner fjord. It appears the waters have become anoxic i.e. depleted of dissolved oxygen, which is a phenomenon that occurs in areas where water exchange has been severely restricted.

Scientists from the Marine Research Institute in Reykjavik are currently here investigating the die-off and will try to pinpoint the exact cause of why thousands of tonnes of a commercially valuable fish such as herring have died of oxygen starvation. The only winners right now appear to be the birds – the white-tailed eagles, ravens and gulls are experiencing a bonanza! Update: As I write this we are getting a second mass mortality of herring in the same fjord. This time we believe 10,000 tonnes may have come ashore on the 2nd February.