Whales in Icelandic waters eat roughly six million tons of fish and other food sources a year and therefore play a large role in the marine ecosystem, both as a whole and in Iceland in particular, Vísir reports. This comes per a statement issued by Iceland’s Marine and Freshwater Institute regarding a recent parliamentary resolution to re-evaluate Iceland’s whaling policy.
There has been a great deal of fluctuations with Iceland’s whale populations since the country began keeping official statistics on the stock in 1987. The number of fin whales increased from 10-15,000 to 30,000 in 2015, while the number of minke whales has been declining since 2000, going from around 40,000 minke whales to 10-15,000.
These figures, however, are not as up to date as they could be. “The statement references scientific articles from 1997,” remarked Gísli Arnór Víkingsson, a marine biologist at the Institute. Moreover, there is still a number of fairly big details that remain unknown about these mammals, such as exactly what each species is eating.
“There are twelve species [around Iceland] and we don’t know what most of them are eating,” continued Gísli. “Based on foreign studies, we can estimate that of these six million [tons], two million were different kinds of fish, about the same amount would be crustaceans and krill, and the rest would be squid and the like.”
Nevertheless, even though the data is incomplete, it still shows, researchers say, how prominent the role is that whales play in Iceland’s marine ecosystem.