The ecological interaction between the Spitsbergen whaling and walrus hunting activities and the marine ecosystem in the 17th and 18th centuries

Updated 2001-04-10

In the seventeent and eighteenth centuries intensive European whaling and walrus hunting took place in the waters around Spitsbergen, with many stations on the coast of the islands. The hunt was carried out in areas along the edge of pack ice and is therefore very sensitive to changes in the ice situation and climate. When, around 1650, climate and ice distribution changed, whales moved to the north. The whaling stations in the south of Spitsbergen were abandoned when stations in the north were still functioning. When, later, the ice situation deteriorated in the north as well, the stations were abandoned there too. Shore whaling changed into pelagic whaling. Because of these whaling and walrus hunting activities two very numerous large mammals were largely depleted and almost disappeared from the Spitsbergen waters. The pelagically feeding Greenland Right Whale and the bentically feeding walrus, whose initial stocks are estimated at 46,000 Greenland Right Whales and 25,000 walrus, were eliminated. This elimination has caused a major shift in the foodweb. The plankton feeding seabirds and polar cod strongly increased because of the elimination of the Greenland Right Whale, and the eider ducks and bearded seals increased because of the decrease of the number of walruses. This development has led to the enormous amount of seabird rookeries on the West coast of Spitsbergen.

This is not a National Implementation Plan (NIP) project

Time frame

Project time span
not specified
Data collection
not specified
Data processing
not specified
Data reporting
not specified

Contact information

Contact person
L. Hacquebord
Arctic Centre University of Groningen P.O. Box 716 9700 AS Groningen Netherlands
+31 50 3636834
+31 50 3636992
Other project contacts
Visiting address: Oude Kijk in 't Jatstraat 26 Groningen F.Steenhuisen Email:

Parameters and Media

Parameter groups measured/observed/modelled
Media sampled/studied/modelled
Marine mammals


Regions studied

Data availability

Are data archived or planned to be archived at an AMAP Thematic Data Centre?
Samples/specimens archived in specimen banks?

Methods & Procedures

Not specified

Additional Information

Is this a bi- AND multi-lateral project (i.e. a project involving cooperation between different countries)?
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