Anthropogenic impact: Whaling and seal hunting

Photo: Ann K. Balto, NP.

Fisheries and other harvesting 2020
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Management of the minke whale is based on the Revised Management Procedure (RMP) developed by the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission. Inputs to this procedure are catch statistics and absolute abundance estimates.

Anthropogenic impact: Whaling and seal hunting

Common minke whale (Balaenoptera acutorostrata)

The present quotas are based on abundance estimates from survey data collected in 1989, 1995, 1996–2001, 2002–2007, and 2008–2013. For the areas available for exploitation by Norwegian whalers, the most recent estimates (2008–2013) are 89 600 animals in the Northeastern stock, and 11 000 animals in the Jan Mayen area. The present (2016–2021) RMP quota of 880 animals annually - 710 in the Northeastern Atlantic and 170 in the Jan Mayen area - is considered precautious, conservative, and protective for the minke whale population in the Northeast Atlantic. At present only Norway utilizes this quota. The total catch in 2020 was 503 minke whales from the Northeastern Atlantic stock of minke whales.

Harp seals (Pagophilus groenlandicus)

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 enough information to give advice on both status and catch potential of the stocks. The applied population model estimates current total population size, incorporating historical catch data, estimates of pup production and historical values of reproductive rates. Modelled abundance is projected into the future to provide an estimate of 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 during the period 1998–2013 indicate a severe reduction in pup production after 2003. 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 as available data on pup production for stock assessment are older than 5 years. The population model provided a poor fit to pup production survey data; primarily due to the abrupt reduction after 2003. Nevertheless, the ICES WGHARP decided to continue to use the model which estimated a total 2019 abundance of 1,497,190 (95% C.I. 1,292,939-1,701,440) seals. The modelled total population indicates that the abundance decreased from its highest level in 1946 to the early 1960s, where after an increase has prevailed. Current level is 74% of the 1946 level. Because of the lack of recent pup production estimates the use of PBR (Possible Biological Removal) is considered the more conservative approach as compared to the use of the population model previously developed for the harp seal stock. For the PBR method the catch is assumed to be proportional to the age structure of the population implying that PBR represents a total allowable catch irrespective of age. The WG suggested the most conservative estimate of PBR with a recovery factor of 0.25 when setting future catch options, resulting in a recommended PBR of 21,172 individuals based on the 2019 modelled abundance estimate.

At present, the catches from the White Sea harp seal population are at a very low level; in 2019 the total catch was 602 animals, which is only 6% of the sustainable catch level, and in 2020 there were no catches.