Norway convinced of the benefits of whale faeces for the ecosystem and climate

Image of a minke whale. Credit: Wikipedia - By NOAA -, Public Domain,

Researchers in Norway are convinced that faeces from minke whales can be beneficial for the ecosystem and climate of the planet.


Researchers from the Norwegian Institute for Marine Research believe that the faeces of minke whales play an important role in fertilising phytoplankton. As a result, it helps to reduce the carbon footprint of cetaceans, according to a report from AFP.

These scientists studied the concentration of nutrients in whale excrement before they were dissolved in seawater. “It may sound disgusting, but for the ecosystem, they are worth their weight in gold”, the authors shared their conclusions.

“Their faeces fertilise the sea in the same way that cows and sheep fertilize the land”, they added. Biologists studied the faeces of minke whales harpooned by whalers – Norway is one of the few countries where commercial hunting of these cetaceans is allowed.

About 15,000 whales migrate every summer to the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard in the Arctic. They are known to release about 600 tons of excrement onto the surface of the water every day, at a rate of about 40 kg per mammal.

During the study of captured minke whales, it was possible to find out that this is equivalent to 10 tons of phosphorus and 7 tons of nitrogen. These nutrients are essential for the growth of phytoplankton, microscopic algae that take in carbon dioxide through photosynthesis and convert it into oxygen.

In total, the excrement of minke whales makes up from 0.2 to 4 per cent of the daily ‘feeding’ of phytoplankton in Svalbard.

“The real contribution from whales is probably higher because these estimates do not include urine, which is very rich in nitrogen”, explained Kjell Gundersen, the lead researcher. “Each adult minke whale is a creature weighing 40-50 tons, which feeds by filtering large amounts of water. It, therefore, excretes several hundred litres of urine per day”.

In turn, an increase in the mass of phytoplankton helps fight global warming by absorbing carbon dioxide, which creates a greenhouse effect the researchers concluded, as reported by


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Chris King

Originally from Wales, Chris spent years on the Costa del Sol before moving to the Algarve where he is a web reporter for The Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news. Got a news story you want to share? Then get in touch at