Humpback Whale Entanglement Assessment and Mitigation in Iceland

This PhD. project is conducted by Charla Basran under the supervision of Dr. Marianne Rasmussen, and focuses mainly on the entanglement of humpback whales in the fishing industry. Firstly, the project assesses scarring on the humpbacks that can be attributed to prior entanglement injuries. This is used to determine how many humpback whales in Iceland have been entangled in fishing gear before, through analysis of photographs from around the country taken by researchers, interns, and collected from whale watching tourists. In addition, onboard observation of any bycatch and cetaceans present in the capelin fishing grounds in the Eastfjords will be conducted, along with the testing of humpback whale pingers, in collaboration with a capelin purse seine vessel. This will be used to assess bycatch issues in this industry, and aid in deciding whether these pingers could minimize the humpback whale – capelin net interactions which have become a growing problem in this industry over the years. Finally, a survey of fishermen is underway, collecting eye-witness humpback whale entanglement accounts around Iceland, reports of fishing gear damage attributed to cetaceans, and information on cetacean bycatch reporting compliance, to learn more about these issues from the fishermen’s first-hand perspective. 

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