Our projects

MAREFA has been awarded by Earthwatch to host international volunteers

Join an international research team in the spectacular Norwegian Arctic to investigate the behaviors and needs of dolphins and sperm, killer, and humpback whales.

In the far reaches of the spectacular Norwegian Atlantic, whales and dolphins abound. Each day, it is possible to observe large male sperm whales in the deep waters of an underwater canyon just 8 miles from the shore. In the winter, the fjords are an essential feeding area for these mammals. While Norwegian commercial whaling for minke whales is still a reality, there is increasing interest in whale watching – an activity that attracts tourists from around the world. You’ll join a group of researchers in the town of Andenes on the island of Andøya, where you’ll take an active role in studying sperm whales, with a focus on whale migration, behavior, and the interactions of sperm, humpback and killer whales with whale-watching boats

Find out more here


Whale watching industry: a key platform to study the distribution, movements and social relationships of male sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus)

Despite the research efforts carried out in the past, male sperm are still poorly known in the North Atlantic, and taking into account the high ecological importance of the species and the increasing value as target for a leading economic activity like the whale watching industry in the North of Norway, it is evidenced there is an urgent requirement to develop further studies to better understand the distribution, movements and social lives of the whales.

The general aim of this project is to shed some light on the lives of sperm whales (a key species for the development of the whale watching and tourism in Norway) and evaluate the synergy between the whale watching industry and research activities.

To reach the general aim, the following secondary objectives are pursued:

–  Understand the distribution of sperm whales along the North Norwegian coast.

–  Understand the movement pattern in a small scale (Norwegian habitat use) and broad scale (migration pattern in the North Atlantic basin)

–  Understand the social structure of the species North Norway.

–  Evaluate if the whale watching industry can effectively become a reliable research platform for cetacean studies.

–  Evaluate if the development of long term research can contribute towards developing innovative products in the whale watching industry of Norway.



Does the whale watching industry have any impact on sperm whales?

Mel Cosentino is studying the impact of the whale watching industry on male sperm whales in Andenes waters, as part of her Master’s project.

Short and long-term impacts of whale watching on cetacean populations have been extensively reported, which includes changes in travel trajectory and behavioural and vocalisation patterns, temporal avoidance of the area, increase in blow intervals and reduction in energetic budget.

Kaikoura waters, in New Zealand, also hosts a male sperm whale population that can be considered homologous to that off Andenes. Several studies were conducted in the area to assess the impact of the whale watching industry on the population. Although significant impact was found in the early 1990’s when the industry just started, the combined effort of the different stakeholders made it possible to improve the quality of the activity and to reduce the negative impacts on the whales.

The aims of the present study are:

– To quantify the effects of the whale watching industry on the male sperm whale population off Andenes.

– To provide robust results that can be compared with results obtained in other places of the world, in particular, off Kaikoura.

– To develop guidelines in order to improve the activity and reduce the negative impacts that might exist