Subject: Whale data:NAMMCO Scientific Committee (fwd)

Michael Williamson (
Mon, 24 Mar 1997 07:41:03 -0500 (EST)

J. Michael Williamson
   Principal Investigator-WhaleNet <>
   Associate Professor-Science
   Wheelock College, 200 The Riverway, Boston, MA 02215
voice: 617.734.5200, ext. 256
fax:    617.734.8666, or 617.566.7369

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Wed, 19 Mar 1997 10:03:18 +0100
From: NAMMCO Secretary <>
Reply-To: Marine Mammals Research and Conservation Discussion
Subject: NAMMCO Scientific Committee


>From the North Atlantic Marine Mammal Commission

        Troms=F8, 17 March 1997

        - PRESS RELEASE -

The Scientific Committee of NAMMCO - the North Atlantic Marine Mammal=20
Commission - met in Troms=F8, Norway, 10-14 March 1997. The meeting was=20
attended by scientific experts  appointed to the Committee from NAMMCO=20
member countries (Norway, Iceland, Greenland and the Faroe Islands). As=20
well, a number of invited experts from across the North Atlantic, including=
Canada, Iceland, Norway, the UK and Russia, contributed to the Committee's=
special focus this year on questions related to the role of  whales and=20
seals in the marine ecosystem. Some of the major conclusions and=20
recommendations of the Scientific Committee can be summarised as follows:

*       Estimates of whale abundance in the North Atlantic
New information on the abundance of several whale stocks in the North=20
Atlantic was reviewed. Data from the 1995 North Atlantic Sightings Survey=
for cetaceans (NASS-95), which was coordinated through NAMMCO, was used as=
the basis for revised estimates for the surveyed areas.
-       The current best estimate of the central North Atlantic stock of mi=
whales is 72,000. Combined with the estimate of 112,000 from the Norwegian=
part of the survey in the Northeast Atlantic, which was reviewed by the=20
Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission in 1996, this=
gives a total estimate of 184,000 minke whales in the central and northeast=
-       The Scientific Committee concluded that the abundance of fin and se=
whales in North Atlantic waters east of Greenland was 22,800 and 9,250=20

*       Long-finned pilot whales
Pilot whales are of particular interest for the Faroe Islands. Data from th=
NASS-95 survey did not result in significantly different estimates of=20
abundance, and the earlier number of 778,000 pilot whales in the northeast=
Atlantic was still considered to be the best estimate. The Scientific=20
Committee concluded that the effects of historic and present catches in the=
Faroe Islands have had a negligible effect on the long-term trends in the=

*       Role of marine mammals in the ecosystem
-       Fish consumption of minke whales, harp seals and hooded seals in th=
e North=20
Based on a review of recent results from ecological studies, the Scientific=
Committee concluded that minke whales, harp seals and hooded seals may have=
substantial direct and/or indirect effects on commercial fish stocks. As an=
example it was shown that stocks of minke whales and harps seals in the=20
Barents Sea and off northern Norway may consume 2.5-3.5 million tons of pre=
per year, more than half of which is commercially important fish.=20
-       To better understand the possible effects of this consumption, the=
Scientific Committee recommended  that knowledge be improved in a number of=
areas, such as variations in abundance, distribution, diet, energy=20
requirements and prey abundance of these marine mammals,  the way in which=
marine mammals select their prey, and the extent of consumption of fish=20
species by other predators in the system.

-       Sealworm infection in fish
Transmission of parasites (sealworm) from seal to fish has a significant=20
economic impact on the fisheries sector in many parts of the North Atlantic=
The Scientific Committee reviewed the current state of knowledge concerning=
the life cycle of sealworms. In relation to the influence of seal abundance=
on the level of sealworm infection in fish, the Scientific Committee=20
concluded that:
-       The presence of grey seals or harbour seals may lead to sealworm=20
infection over the entire North Atlantic region; - because of their more=20
limited foraging range, harbour seals could be particularly responsible for=
high local infection in fish; - sealworm infection in fish is not=20
necessarily directly correlated with seal abundance, as even a few seals ca=
maintain high infection levels in fish in an area.

The full report of the Scientific Committee will be presented to this year'=
annual meeting of the Council of NAMMCO, which will be held in T=F3rshavn,=
Faroe Islands from 27-30 May 1997.=20

North Atlantic Marine Mammal Commission
c/- University of Troms=F8
N-9037 Troms=F8

Tel.: +47 776 45908
Fax: +47 776 45905