Master Thesis defense at the Icelandic Seal Center

The Icelandic Seal Center, in coordination with the University Center of the Westfjords, Hólar University, and the Marine and Freshwater Research Institute, would like to announce the Master of Resource Management thesis defense of Cécile Chauvat. Her presentation is titled, Visitors in the Land of Seals, and will be streamed live on YouTube on 5 May at 13:00 here:

New publication!

A new scientific paper titled “Fluorine Mass Balance and Suspect Screening in Marine Mammals from the Northern Hemisphere” was recently published in the scientific journal Environmental Science and Technology. The project is an international cooperation between several research institutions and one of the 14 authors of the paper is Sandra M. Granquist, who is head of our Seal Research department and a specialist at the Marine and Freshwater Research Institute. You can find the paper here:

Open lecture

Dr. Sandra Granquist, head of the biology research department, will hold a presentation describing the history of seal research conducted at the Seal Center in cooperation with the Marine and Freshwater Research Institute (formerly, the Freshwater Research Institute) from 2008-2020.
Admission is free and open to anyone interested.

Open lecture

On January 16 in the Seal Center, Dr. Vilhelm Vilhelmsson will be presenting a talk about the importance of seal hunting in the region of Húnaflói from the 17th century to 20th century. The presentation will be in Icelandic.

Entertaining education

Einar Þórleifsson, a member of the Seal Center staff, will hold a presentation about the birds found in Icelandic gardens, including information about what plants can attract various birds, what and how to feed the birds, and what kinds of bird houses work well.

Sustainable Cultural Tourism Award Nomination

Sponsoring organizations

The Icelandic Seal Center is very excited to announce our selection as a candidate for the ‘Destination of Sustainable Cultural Tourism’ Awards 2019. The winners and runners up will be announced at the European Cultural Tourism Network (ECTN) Awards ceremony to take place in Granada, Spain, on 24 October 2019. The Awards ceremony will be held during the annual ECTN Conference 2019 that will take place on 24-26 October 2019 at Museo Memoria de Andalucía, Granada, Spain.


The Icelandic Seal Center (ISC) is an example of a community-academic partnership. Established in 2005 as a community-owned non-profit the ISC is a local initiative aimed at developing sustainable and responsible tourism for Húnaþing vestra, and it continues to help in regional development with wildlife tourism as a focus. Academic partnerships with the ISC include Hólar University, The Marine and Freshwater Research Institute, and Náttúrustofa Norðurlands vestra. Seal Travel, which is a non-profit tourism agency owned by the ISC helps to establish networks of tourism businesses in Húnaþing vestra and other regional partnerships for tourism development. The ISC has an integral role in nurturing the local identity and distinctiveness of a community, strengthening sustainable rural tourism development, and empowering people at the local level to develop policies for the protection of natural and cultural resources.

New harbour seal census

Photo: Sandra M. Granquist

The Marine and Freshwater Research Institute has, in cooperation with the Icelandic Seal Center, completed a new harbour seal census. The report can be found here. The harbour seal population is estimated to be 9400 animals. Regular population censuses were initiated in 1980 to monitor trends in the population size of Icelandic harbour seals. The current estimate is 72% smaller than in 1980, but 23% larger than in 2016 when the last complete population census was conducted.

Most of the observed decrease in the population occurred between the years 1980 and 1989. Results indicate that the population currently seems to fluctuate around a minimum stock level.

The current estimate is 21% below the governmentally issued management objective for the minimum population size of harbour seals in Iceland (12,000 animals).

To raise the numbers in the population to match the management objective, the Marine and Freshwater Research Institute (MFRI) advises that direct hunting should be banned and that actions must be taken to reduce by-catch of seals in commercial fisheries. If limited hunting will be allowed, MFRI advises that a hunting management system should be initiated, and that reporting of all seal hunts should be mandatory. MFRI further advises that attempts to minimize anthropogenic disturbance of harbour seal colonies are initiated, in particular during breeding and moulting seasons between May and August. The advice can be found here.

A new project beginning

On Friday 28 June at 09:00, Cécile Chauvat will be giving a presentation on her research proposal about biospheric values of tourists at seal watching spots in North-Western Iceland. Cécile’s research will assess the correlation between biospheric values of tourists and their knowledge of their impacts on the biosphere.

A new person joins our team

Naturalist, Einar Ó. Þorleifsson, has taken the reins of a new job with the Northwest Iceland Nature Centre, inconjuction with  the Icelandic Seal Center. He has a degree in geography with concentrations in biology and geology. Einar has spent countless hours over many years studying birds. His specialties are wetlands ecology and wetland birds. In addition, Einar has participated in a wide body of research on the distribution of birds in Iceland, especially those that settled Iceland from the Twentieth Century until today.

Einar will be working on various natural science studies, most based in ornithology, in the wide area under the purview of the Northwest Iceland Nature Centre. His main office is provided by the Icelandic Seal Center in Hvammstangi.

Those who would like to share information about interesting birds (for instance, new nesting sites) or discoveries of plants or unusual geological phenomena are welcome to look to him for more information.

Sustainable Tourism Development in the Nordic Arctic

The Icelandic Seal Center has been invited to join a research network called, “Sustainable Tourism Development in the Nordic Arctic.” Dr. Jessica Aquino, Head of Tourism Research, will be ISC’s representative for the network. The aims of this network are to investigate how to utilize existing human capital, natural resources (especially living marine resources), and infrastructure capacity to develop innovative sustainable tourism that can diversify and make Arctic economic development more resilient. This is to be achieved through three interrelated workshops in the Arctic regions of the Nordic countries. The first workshop was hosted in Northern Norway in April 2018. The seconded workshop will be hosted in Northern Iceland from 18-22 March 2019. Funding for this network is provided by NordRegio, UArctic, and the International Network Program of the Danish Agency for Science and Higher Education.