Six pinniped species occur in the Icelandic Waters ecoregion but only two of these breed locally (grey seals and harbour seals). Both species are currently in decline. The harbour seal population has decreased from 33 000 animals in 1980 to 7700 animals in 2016, the lowest in the time-series. The largest decline occurred between 1980 and 1989 when a bounty system was in effect (figure 12). The Icelandic grey seal population has decreased from an estimated 9000 animals in 1982 to 4200 animals in 2012. A new grey seal census is planned in 2017.
23 species of cetaceans have been observed in Icelandic waters, twelve of which are seen on a regular basis. Cetacean surveys have been conducted at regular intervals between 1987 and 2016 and reveal varying trends in abundance. Humpback whales have shown high rates of increase and fin whales also increased during 1987–2001 in the central North Atlantic, and particularly in the Irminger Sea between Iceland and Greenland in 1987–2015. The abundance of minke whales has decreased substantially in Icelandic coastal waters since 2001, most likely owing to decreased availability of important prey species such as sandeel and capelin.
Figure 12: Trends in the Icelandic harbour seal population from 1980 to 2016. The mean values (blue) and 95% confidence intervals are shown.