Lunch presentation at the Icelandic Seal Center!

Thursday 25 June, two lunch presentations will be given in the auditorium of the Seal center.
Cécile Chauvat, who recently graduated with a Master in Coastal Management from The University Center of the Westfjords will present the results of her master thesis, which she conducted at the Icelandic Seal Center in cooperation with Hólar University and the Marine and Freshwater Research Institute. Her thesis was supervised by Dr. Jessica F. Aquino and Dr. Sandra M. Granquist.
Polina Moroz, a master student from The University of Iceland, will give a presentation about her research proposal. She is researching harbour seal colonies by using wildlife trail cameras at important resting areas of the seals. Her study is conducted at The Icelandic Seal Center in cooperation with The Marine and Freshwater Research Institute and her supervisors are dr. Sandra M. Granquist and dr. Marianne H. Rasmussen.

• 12:00 Visitors in the land of seals; Values, opinions and perceptions of visitors to inform management at seal watching spots in Northwestern Iceland , Cécile Chauvat
• 12:30 Observation of haul-out behavior of the Icelandic harbor seal (Phoca vitulina) population using automatic trails cameras in Vatnsnes, NW Iceland, Polina Moroz

New Master’s Project Started

Meet Polina Moroz, master student in Environment and natural resources at The University of Iceland. This summer Polina is working on a project in co-operation with The Icelandic Seal Center and The Marine and Freshwater Research Institute, called „Using stationary automatic trail cameras to monitor harbour seals at important haul-out sites“. Her supervisor is Sandra M. Granquist (Head of Seal Research Department at The Icelandic Seal Center and specialist at The Marine and Freshwater Research Institute). The project is supported by The Icelandic student innovation fund.

Grant funding from the Climate Fund (Loftlagssjóður)

From left to right: Einar O. Þorleifsson, Bjarni Jónsson, Guðmundur Ingi Guðbrandsson
Minister for the Environment and Natural Resources, Jessica Aquino, and Sandra M. Granquist.

The Icelandic Seal Center, in coordination with the Northwest Iceland Nature Center, Hólar University, and the Marine and Freshwater Research Institute are happy to announce grant funding allocation through the Climate Fund (Loftlagssjóður) for the project Youth for Arctic Nature. 

Youth for Arctic Nature is a youth lead empirical research project through which young people in Northwest Iceland will work with local and regional scientists on monitoring wildlife. Youth will generate essential and significant monitoring data for research as well as important educational materials for school and youth groups. The project’s objectives are to create an awareness of climate change through hands-on learning about monitoring various species, how environmental changes may affect those species, and how to combat those negative impacts. The main target audience is children in grades 5-8 in the Northwest of Iceland and will also include teachers, scientists and other relevant stakeholders. In addition, the project includes multi-stakeholders at the local, regional, and international levels.

It is our strong belief that creating opportunities for youth to work on real scientific projects will develop their competencies in sustainable community development. Knowledge gained from collecting scientific information on the local natural environment can play an essential role in mobilizing local communities to begin other local environmental initiatives and sharing information. The overall long term goal is to establish a local longitudinal monitoring program that will then lead to working with other school groups and scientists internationally. Funding from the Climate Fund (Loftslagssjóður) will help to hire a naturalist for the project who will coordinate with the youth, teachers, schools, scientists, along with other stakeholders.

The project co-leaders are Einar Ó. Þórleifsson and Dr. Jessica Aquino. Einar is a naturalist working for the Northwest Iceland Nature Center and the Icelandic Seal Center. Jessica is an Assistant Professor at Hólar University in the Rural Tourism Department and heads the Tourism Research Department at the Icelandic Seal Center. In partnership with Dr. Sandra Granquist, Head of Seal Research at Marine and Freshwater Research Institute and Head of Seal Research Department of the Icelandic Seal Center.

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.