Spate of Greenland whale deaths a worrying puzzle

A large number of dead whales have been found around Greenland and authorities are scratching their heads as to why. Now it has come to light that such a spate of sudden deaths may not be unprecedented.

KNR reported at the end of March that hunters from Attu had found eight dead great whales. Now the Department for Hunting and Fishing says it has happened several times in the past.

Hunters and fishermen have also reported finding a dead humpback by Eqalungaarsuit in southern Greenland and a dead sperm whale at the Itilleq, south of Sisimiut.

Biologists and hunters have been unable to explain the causes of death. The Department for Hunting and Fishing and the Greenland Natural History Institute are trying to gather more information about the whales and have set up several scenarios for what might have happened.

The whales could have suffered head injuries while attempting to break the sea ice. They could also have been bitten by killer whales, or been entangled in fishing nets. Another possible explanation is that they may have broken their backs upon collision with a ship.

How long the whales have been dead and where they were found are important indicators, the Department for Hunting and Fishing says.

It will be established with the Greenlandic Bureau of Minerals and Petroleum and the Danish Navy’s Greenland Command whether there has been oil exploration using seismic surveys or military activity with the use of sonar in the area.

It is also conceivable that the cause of death is entirely natural, KNR reports.

The Department for Fishing, Hunting and Agriculture is working to establish a working group to formulate a contingency plan for if further sightings of dead whales are reported off the coast. The contingency plan will include guidelines on who should be contacted and what type of information should be collected.

(Homepage Photo: Anders Peter Amsnæs)

Comments are closed.