1st Whale Congress in Húsavík
Wednesday 16th July, the Whale Museum hosted an event here in Húsavík, the Whale Congress. North Sailing had two representatives presenting at this conference, guides Luisa Klotz and Sabrina Brando.
Dr Marianne Rasmussen, the director of the Húsavík Research Centre, was the first to present. She described some of the research that is being done in Skjálfandi Bay, including sound recordings and camera tags. This work would not be possible without the cooperation between North Sailing and the Research Centre.
Luisa Klotz, now a guide with North Sailing, was a researcher in 2012, collecting data for her Masters’ Thesis. She presented her findings on the distribution of Humpback whales in the bay during that summer, and suggested that more research should be carried out to see how the distribution changes between years, not just over the course of a single summer.
Sabrina Brando spoke about how guides should work to strike a good balance between giving information and being entertaining for the passengers. Of course, a guide’s job is to tell passengers about the wildlife and nature, but it should also include making people aware of threats to nature and what they can do to minimize those threats. A good guide should be able to do this without becoming boring or “preachy” and keep everyone interested in what is being said and shown.
Sigursteinn Másson from IFAW, the International Fund for Animal Welfare, spoke about the “Meet us, don’t eat us” campaign. It is important to remind everyone that eating whale meat is neither traditionally Icelandic nor a responsible use of resources. He presented data from Norway and Japan showing how uneconomical the whaling industry is in those countries.
Other presenters were Lilja Rögnvaldsdóttir who gave preliminary data from a study being done by the Húsavík Research Centre on the impact of tourism in Þingeyjarsysla (the region around Húsavík), Charla Basran who presented her Masters’ Thesis report on incidences of humpback whales showing signs of entanglement in fishing gear, and María Björk from IceWhale, the association of Whale Watching companies in Iceland reporting on the need for and development of guidelines for whale encounters.
There were about 60 people in attendance and the hope is that this will become an annual event.