RESEARCH, MONITORING & CONSERVATION
OF NORWEGIAN KILLER WHALES
Norwegian Orca Survey is a non-profit research organisation dedicated to studying and monitoring killer whales in Norwegian waters. Collecting robust data, building a better understanding of this population's life history, ecology and health status, and putting this knowledge available to management bodies are of crucial importance to achieve effective conservation, and constitute our main objectives. Using ground-breaking research technologies, we generate innovative knowledge,
delivered through publications in academic journals. We also investigate stranded marine mammals and conduct interventions to assist animals in distress and promote animal welfare in Norway.
About Killer Whales
Killer whales are the largest species in the Delphinidea (dolphins) family. They occur in all the world's oceans and, as top-predators, they have a special role in marine ecosystems. Gathering detailed information about them is needed to assess their conservation status, as well as understanding how they may impact prey stocks. Interestingly, regional killer whale populations may differ in morphology, pigmentation, behavior and diet. In the eastern North Pacific, killer whales have been studied for over four decades. Most of our knowledge on killer whales today comes from these long-term studies, which constitute a real inspiration for other parts of the world. In Norway, much remains to be investigated and learnt.
The ID Project
Individual killer whales can be reliably identified using the scars that naturally occur on the grey saddle patch (adjacent to the dorsal fin) and, the shape of and nicks in the dorsal fin. Known as 'photo-identification', this method was first introduced by late Dr Michael Bigg in the eastern North Pacific and has been used by scientists worldwide ever since. In Norway, photo-identification studies were initiated in 1984 and were carried out by colleagues until 2005. Norwegian Orca Survey took over the ID-project in 2013, ensuring the legacy of this work. We are now curating the most extensive database on Norwegian killer whales, spanning 1984 to present. Click the below button and identify your whales! You can also contribute your ID photos.
Report a Stranding
Because dead stranded marine mammals offer a unique opportunity for sampling, we started systematic sampling of whale, dolphin and seal carcasses in 2014. A research collaboration between Norwegian Orca Survey, the University of Oslo (UiO) and the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU), and funding from Klima-og miljødepartementet, financed the very first study of chemical pollution in Norwegian stranded whales until 2021.
Although funding-dependent, our efforts in sampling dead stranded marine mammals in Norway continue. If you come across a stranded animal, please get in touch!
While our team has been mainly operating in northern Norway (Vesterålen and Troms), help from the general public also made possible the cataloguing of killer whales that inhabit the southern Norwegian fjords. Many people contributed photographs from their killer whale sightings over the past years. When quality of the photos allowed, the specific individuals were photo-identified and new records (of where and when seen) were added to the database. To improve the research effort focusing on these whales, we designed NOS-Vestlandet. The project aims at reinforcing data collection with the help of local actors.
Live stranded and entangled marine mammals in Norway should be reported to the Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries as fast as possible. They will assess the situation and do the necessary to help the animal(s).
Contact 24/7: 03415
We step in on more unusual situations that may require expertise on cetacean behaviour for positive outcome. If you come across a marine mammal that you suspect to be sick, isolated or trapped in the shallows, we can help.
Please get in touch!