The Big Feast
By Lizzie Daly
Fourth Element Ambassador Lizzie Daly is a wildlife biologist and broadcaster from Wales and recently visited Northern Norway to document the latest pressures on the whales that visit these fjords each year for a feeding frenzy.
Every November the freezing inky waters in the fjords of Northern Norway come alive with hundreds of humpback whales and Orca which all arrive to feed on the overwintering spring spawning herring.
I have had the pleasure of filming up in Northern Norway for the past 3 seasons. My time in Skjervoy consists of being out on the water, making the most of what little light there is – from sunrise to sunset (around 10am–3pm) with temperatures reaching -15 degrees Celsius.
The moment you spot an Orca pierce through a dark moving cloud of herring in the ocean you forget everything around you. You forget the freezing cold water and instead become immersed in a completely new world – their world. On the boat you can feel the deep breaths of a humpback whale travel through your body, the smell of herring as they leap out the water, and hear the melodic calls of Orca which travel up from below the inky dark waters.
So much of life depends on the herring in these waters. It supports one of the world’s best managed and most sustainable herring fisheries in the world and therefore supports jobs, livelihoods and food. This has been ingrained in the way of life for so many people in Norway and as a result the herring numbers in these waters are not like anywhere else in the world. This also means the herring are a crucial food resource and maintain a balanced ecosystem for a lot of the whales here.
However there is large threat to these waters and to all of the wildlife here – oil exploration.
Unfortunately, the Norwegian government has announced the opening of 136 new areas for oil searching in the Barents and Norwegian Sea – 60% of these areas are classified as highly sensitive areas for wildlife. This goes against all scientific advice from major research institutions such as the Norwegian Polar Institute and the Marine Research Institute and will directly impact species like the humpback whales and Orca that visit these waters.
In 2019 local environmental groups and the Workers Youth League put pressure on the government to phase out, restrict and ban oil drilling in the Lofoten fjords. As a result the planning to drill for oil was stopped. This was a huge win not only for those working tirelessly to protect these waters and life within it but for the future of Norway. Yet just over a year we find ourselves once again fighting against one of the most ecologically damaging threats the Arctic environment has ever seen. We can no longer deny the detrimental and irreversible impacts of our actions on our planet. Something must be done.
Lizzie is producing and hosting a one off documentary which follows the story of the whales in this region and looks at some of the ecological and anthropogenic pressures facing this delicate and fragile Arctic region in the hope it will help implement change.