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Skjervøy

Fjords Full of Herrings and Killer Whales

Killer Whales Meeting Point

General Information

About Skjervøy

Skjervoy is a typical fishing village located on an island, as well as the name of a commune located in the Troms region, north-west of Tromso. It is a great place for outdoor activities. High peaks encourage trekking and skiing, while deep fjords allow for free navigation and fishing.

Together with the neighbouring commune of Kvanangen, the areas have suddenly become a popular tourist destination since the winter of 2017/2018, which had been caused by the unexpected appearance of herds of killer whales in this area, following herrings.

More Information

In pursuit of the herring and killer whales

Killer whales are extremely intelligent mammals from the dolphin family. They live in herds of 5-40 individuals and feed on fish and other mammals. Some of them successfully hunt whales and seals using sophisticated techniques. In northern Norway, they settle for their favorite herrings, which they follow. In other words, where there are herrings, there are killer whales.

Until around 2011 the herrings' main wintering place in northern Norway were the Tysfjord, Ofotfjord and Vestfjord fjords. Herrings stayed there since mid-October, and at the end of January they went south to the west coast of Norway to spawn. Then in the summer they returned even further to the north, to the Norwegian Sea. However, they changed their plans one winter and moved to Andenes, Senja and Tromso areas for the next five years. In the winter of 2017/18 there was yet another change - the herrings went even higher to the north - to Skjervoy and Kvanangen regions, which surprised their residents, tourists, but not killer whales.

Killer whales use different hunting methods. In the case of herrings, they use the so-called "carousel technique" - first, they surround the school and release air bubbles, which causes the frightened herrings to squeeze up. They circle around them, confusing the fish with their shimmering light bellies, until one of the killer whales goes into the center and knocks out and kills the fish as long as all killer whales have had enough food.

Other methods include, for example, long pursuit of the victim, making it tired, cutting off e.g. a whale from the access to the air, creating a wave to "rinse" the victim off an ice floe, pushing fish to the surface of the water, or even going to the beach to get their prey.