Habitat preference and trend in relative abundance of common minke whale (Balaenoptera acutorostrata) in Skjálfandi Bay, Iceland

Aleksandra Lechwar, Marianne H. Rasmussen, Charla Basran, Sinead Collins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Anthropogenic activity has contributed to increased extinction rates, creating a need to monitor and conserve vulnerable species. Understanding the distribution and habitat preference of threatened species can identify crucial habitats, for which protection can improve the population size numbers. Here, we investigate the habitat preference of the common minke whale, a species reported to be declining in Icelandic waters. We analysed minke whale sightings over time and in relation to environmental factors (depth, sea surface temperature, sediment, chlorophyll), based on long-term monitoring data from Skjálfandi Bay in the northeast of Iceland. We found minke whales have a preference for water depth between 9-70m. Shallow depth was a strong predictor of minke whale presence, which matched sandeel habitat preference. Although the relationship between minke whale presence and sea surface temperature is weak, it also matched sandeel preference. We also detected a decline in the number of minke whale sightings over the study period (2009-2018). The decline in relative abundance observed here is consistent with the trend estimated for the Icelandic population. We suggest that the habitat preferences identified here and in other studies should be considered for conservation recommendations and minimising disturbance in the identified, crucial feeding areas.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages18
JournalThe Journal Of Cetacean Research and Management
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 11 Apr 2023

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • common minke whale
  • trends
  • feeding grounds
  • distribution
  • habitat
  • conservation
  • Iceland


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