NORWEGIAN SPERM WHALE RESEARCH FOUNDATION

Norwegian Sperm Whale Research Foundation is a non-profit organisation based in Andenes, about 300 km north of the Arctic Circle. Our aim is to increase knowledge about the ecology of the largest toothed whale living on earth, the sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus).

The Norwegian Sperm Whale Research Foundation was established in 2020 by whale scientists in close collaboration with a whale-watching company, Seasafari Andenes, which had already invested in research for some years.

The overall goal of the Foundation is an increased knowledge of the ecology and life history of male sperm whales in Arctic Norway. Male sperm whales, grow to a much larger size than females, leave the breeding grounds in temperate to tropical waters around the age of 10 and migrate to feeding grounds at higher latitudes. The majority of research on sperm whales has focused on the highly social groups of females and subadult males in the breeding grounds, whereas the life of males migrating to feeding grounds in higher latitudes is largely unknown.

In the North Atlantic they are known to feed mainly along the continental shelf edge and in deep sea basins. The continental shelf is usually far from land, so relatively few studies have been conducted on the male sperm whales in North Atlantic and much of their behavioral ecology is still unknown. Off Andøya, Vesterålen islands, the continental shelf edge and a deep sea canyon comes within only eight nautical miles (about 15 kms) from land. This very close proximty to the deep sea environment creates a unique oppertunity for scientific work as well as whale-watching. Most of the work conducted by the Foundation focuses on this area, but field work will also be done in areas both further south and north of Andøya.

The Foundation is collaborating with scientists working on the breeding grounds of sperm whales in the Azores and Madeira, where adult males visit to mate with females. It has been previously suggested that male sperm whales occur in the waters off Vesterålen islands only during summer but Seasafari Andenes has documented sperm whales present in the area throughout the year since 2013.

The Foundation is collaborating with scientists from research institutions in Norway and other countries. Our goal is to create an environment where students, scientists and others can work together towards a common goal – a better understanding of male sperm whales and the deep sea ecosystem that they are part of.

If you want to know more about sperm whales and what we are up to with these giants of the deep go check out our projects!