Whale Species in Iceland

June 24, 2020

Generally speaking, we will find 23 different species of both toothed and baleen whales all around the Icelandic coast. All these species have been recorded within the last 200 years. Whilst some species inhabit rather coastal areas, others prefer offshore habitats. In order, to understand a bit more about their distribution, we have to look a bit closer into the fact that some whales are migrating species, whereas others are known as so called resident species, meaning they will stay year-round. Latter will for example include some of the toothed whale species, that can be observed on our whale watching tours such as white-beaked dolphins, harbour porpoises and sometimes also killer whales. Species belonging to the baleen whales are rather migrating species and only a few will stay around the country in winter-time.
But let’s start from the beginning and check the different species.
Looking closer into the big order of toothed whales, we will find a higher species variety compared to the baleen whales.
For example, all dolphin species, the harbour porpoises but also sperm whales, pilot whales, and all species belonging to the so called ‘beaked whales’ will be listed here. Depending on the area, season and time of day, the sightings will most likely differ.

Also belonging to the toothed whales is a family known as Monodontidae. Only two species will be found here, the narwhale and the beluga whale. Both species have been observed around northern parts of the country within the last two centuries, but being considered as generally rare sightings since both are circumpolar species. Nevertheless, there is a possibility to see some belugas nowadays, in a sanctuary located in the Westman islands (Heimaey) in the south of Iceland. The sanctuary was taken into operation 2019 and is aiming on providing former captive beluga whales with a natural environment.