[MARMAM] Some good news on the sperm whale in Southern Norway

Marta Acosta bigjimna at hotmail.com
Tue Aug 13 14:59:34 PDT 2013

Dear all,

I just wanted to make an update with the most recent information about the sperm whale in Southern Norway.
This morning at 10:30 with still low tide we started a coordinated effort to herd the sperm whale out of the bay. He had been trapped in for more than 5 days. This effort consisted on a coordinated maneuvering of 4 vessels: 2 medium sized fishing and 2 small boats. As the whale seemed to react to acoustic stimuli produced with a simple hammer and metallic bars the previous day, we thought that this acoustic method would be the first method to use. 

We reproduced the same sounds with these simple tools and noticed a change in the activity on the whale. He seemed stressed and started moving fast in circles in the beginning, sometimes approaching land and other moored vessels. We realized that the hammering sound was probably too stressful for the whale so we stopped this attempt after circa 15 minutes and decided to try to heard the whale only with the vessels at a very low speed out of the bay.

The whole operation lasted for about one hour and a half and we managed to conduct the whale about 1,2 nm out of the bay to waters of about 100 m depth. At that point the whale, that had been actively swimming, started rolling on the surface and soon disappeared under the water for more than 20 min. At this moment we lost visual contact with him. We had tried to use a hydrophone to confirm if he was clicking, but that was not the case. Once in the area to which we herd him, the sea state conditions were too rough to be able to try the hydrophone again. We could not spot the whale again, so the fleet returned to the bay.

Our biggest concern was that the whale would immediately return to the bay, as he had done during the previous attempt on the first day he was trapped in the bay. On that attempt he returned only one hour after he had passed the very shallow waters of 4m. One hour after we had lost the whale, one of the medium sized fishing boats scanned the area where the whale was last seen. They managed to find the whale further towards the open sea at around 14:00h. The last confirmed position of the whale is at 14:55h at 60 29.355N - 04 50.759E swimming towards open waters at a sped of 3.5 knots and performing short dives in Greinpingen area, very close to open seas (North Sea).

There has not been any more news on the whale since. All the vessels, locals and authorities of the area as well as the media are very aware of the whole situation so in case the whale is again sighted in the surroundings, it will most certainly reported immediately.

We are optimistic about the situation, still we are aware that the whale could appear again in shallow waters. If this is the case, we will keep you updated. 

We want to thank in any case to the Øygarden kommune for their hospitality, concern, and fantastic work, to all the locals that participated in the operation, especially to the fishermen that contributed with their vessels and dedication during this morning, and to Julie Marie Andersen for her commitment, brilliant contribution to the development of the plan, her valuable time and her incredible help, which made her participation paramount. We believe that this coordinated attempt to release a trapped whale was a success in terms of organization and commitment and very important example in Norway regardless of the fate of the whale.


Marta Acosta
Marine Research and Education Fund of Andenes
m.acosta at marefa-whaleresearch.org

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