[MARINE_BIOLOGY_INTERNATIONAL] Whale watchers worry whales, study finds


04.07.2011 | 21:30
New Study: Whale Watching Disturbing for Whales
A new study conducted at the University of Iceland Research Center for Marine Mammal Biology in Húsavík, northeast Iceland, indicates that minke whales change their conventional behavioral pattern when approached by whale watching boats.

Whale watching in Iceland. Photo by Páll Stefánsson.

According to the authors of the study, Fredrik Christiansen, David Lusseau and Marianne Rasmussen, minke whales shorten their diving period considerably in the presence of boats which might impact the whales' search for food, Morgunbladid reports.

The authors reason that when minke whales notice boats approaching they start swimming differently than they are used to, in a more winding manner. This is to mislead whatever is following them, in this case, the whale watching boat.

The shortening of the diving period may be caused by the minke whales' increased need to surface to breathe in the presence of whale watching boats, which disturbs their search for food, the study states.

Whale watching is popular among tourists in Iceland. It has been a steadily growing industry since it was launched in 1991.

In 2008, 144,000 people went whale watching in Iceland. It mainly takes place in the bays Faxaflói in the southwest and Skjálfandi in the northeast.

The study is based on the observation of traffic on Faxaflói and the behavioral patterns of whales from May 27 to August 28, 2010.

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