The northern bottlenose whale in the Faroe Islands, 1584-1993



The northern bottlenose whale has been caught in the Faroe Islands for centuries, with written catch records going back to 1584 and unbroken from 1709. A total of 811 whales has been reported in the period 1584-1993. The Faroese bottlenose whaling is an opportunistic drive fishery of pods sighted very close to shore. Natural strandings also occur. Most of the fishery has taken place in two close southern villages of the Faroese archipelago (72% of the catch). The high season is 20 August-20 September. The pod contains 1-7 whales with an average of 2.1 whales. Most of them are immature males or mature females with juveniles, but as many males as females have been caught overall. Females and males at every stage of development have been caught in the Faroes, although it appears that the bottlenose whales approaching the Faroese coast and then driven ashore have not included as large and as small individuals as those shot offshore. A body weight (W in kg) and length (L in cm) relationship has been calculated for both sexes combined: W = 0.0000131 x L3.07. Females and immature males have a grey and bulbous forehead. As the males mature their forehead becomes flatter and lighter, and only large mature males have a white and flat forehead. The stomach contents of nine whales contained in total at least 13 squid species. A comparison with pilot whaling shows that bottlenose whales arrive 2-4 weeks later than the pilot whales and that the geographical distribution of the catch is very different for both species, suggesting a different pattern of migration through the archipelago.