Anthropogenic impact: Whaling and seal hunting

Northern minke whale (Balaenoptera acutorostrata). Photo: NAMCO

Fisheries and other harvesting 2016
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The management of this species is based on the Revised Management Procedure (RMP) developed by the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission. The inputs to this procedure are catch statistics and absolute abundance estimates. The present quotas are based on abundance estimates calculated from surveys conducted in 1989, 1995, 1996–2001, 2002–2007 and 2008–2013.

Minke whale (Balaenoptera acutorostrata)

The most recent estimates (2008–2013) are 89 600 minke whales for the Northeastern stock, and 11 000 animals for the Jan Mayen area, which is also exploited by Norwegian whalers. The present (2016-2021) basic RMP quota of 880 animals annually is considered precautious, conservative and protective for the minke whale population in the Northeast Atlantic. At present only Norway utilizes this quota.

Harp seals (Pagophilus groenlandicus)

The Northeast Atlantic stocks of harp seals are assessed every second year by the ICES Working Group on Harp and Hooded Seals (WGHARP). The assessments are based on modelling, which provides ICES with sufficient information to give advice on both status and catch potential of the stocks. The population model applied estimates the current total population size, incorporating historical catch data, estimates of pup production and historical values of reproductive rates. The modelled abundance is projected into the future to provide a future population size for which statistical uncertainty is provided for various sets of catch options. Russian aerial surveys of White Sea harp seal pup production conducted in the period 1998–2013 indicate a severe reduction in pup production after 2003. According to ICES, this could be due to changes in fecundity and/or changes in survival. The Barents Sea/White Sea population of harp seals is now considered data poor (available data for stock assessment older than 5 years). Nevertheless, and despite that the population model provided a poor fit to the pup production survey data, primarily due to the abrupt reduction after 2003, ICES decided to use it to provide advice in 2017 (ICES 2016d). The total size of the population was estimated as 1 408 200 (95% C.I. 1 251 680–1 564 320). A catch of 10 090 1+ animals, or an equivalent number of pups (where one 1+ seal is balanced by 2 pups), per year would sustain the 1+ population at present level over the 15 years’ period 2017–2032. The catches in recent years have been much lower than the quotas, in particular after 2008 which was the last year with Russian hunt on this population.