August 21 – Today we finished a successful aerial survey in Scoresby Sound. The Scoresby Sound fjord system is the largest fjord system in the world and the narwhals have many places to go. We found them to be stationary in two largely dispersed groups though. The two fjords (Gåsefjord and Nordvestfjord) are at opposite ends of the area but they have active glaciers in common. Many glaciers, especially in East Greenland, have retracted during the past few decades and since active glaciers are key narwhal habitat, I wonder if we will continue to see narwhals in Scoresby Sound in the future. We are at the southernmost range of narwhal distribution in East Greenland and here, narwhals are an important species in the subsistence hunt where the “mattak” (whale skin) provide a good income for hunters.
With the aerial survey we will estimate the abundance of narwhals in Scoresby Sound. This estimate will feed into the assessment model of narwhals together with hunting statistics and various life parameter values (age of maturity, life expectancy etc.) which in turn will give us the number of maximum removals if this population is to increase (with 70% possibility). The scientific committees of NAMMCO and JCNB review the model before the results are being presented to the management committee of JCNB (Joint Commission on Narwhal and Beluga) and then finally hereafter presented to politicians that set the quotas.
After finishing another day of surveying for narwhals in beautiful Scoresby Sound we took a walk on the beach. As the picture shows, somebody else decided to take a walk on the beach too – glad we had a rifle with us.
Tomorrow we are off to Station Nord, the northernmost populated place in Greenland, less than 1000 km from the geographic North Pole. The station was built partly as a weather station and an alternate airport by the US in in the 1950s as part of the cold war. The US left the station in 1972 and it is now operated by Danish military (The Joint Arctic Command). We are going to use the station as a base for aerial surveys off the coast of Greenland. Here, we will count walrus, narwhals and bowhead whales as part of a large environmental assessment in the Greenland Sea.