Report of the Norwegian 2019 survey for minke whales within the Small Management Area ES ??? Svalbard
Nils I Oien
International Whaling Commission
As part of a six-year program over the period 2014-2019 with the aim to get a new estimate of minke whale abundance in the Northeast Atlantic in a timely manner with regard to RMP, waters within the Svalbard archipelago comprising the Small Management Area ES, was surveyed with one vessel during the summer 2019. Four blocks were surveyed and received a reasonably good coverage. About 3,729 nautical miles of primary search effort was conducted within the surveyed blocks. The most common species sighted were fin whales, minke whales, humpback whales and white-beaked dolphins. While minke whales showed a sighting rate comparable to that in the 2014 survey, fin whales and especially humpback whales showed an increase in apparent abundance compared to the 2014 survey of the area. Fin whales had increased its distribution area from the Spitsbergen continental slopes to offshore Greenland Sea waters, while humpbacks had increased the abundance south of Bear Island. Minke whales had a more southeastern distribution in 2019 compared to 2014.