120 Pilot Whales Killed In The Faroe Islands
WDCS is dismayed by reports from the Faroe Islands that a grind has taken place in Sandur, on the Island of Sandoy, where 120 pilot whales were reportedly killed the morning of June 5th. A WDCS representative, Hans Peter Roth, was able to document the event, which is locally known as a ‘grind.’ Roth was in the area to attend a conference to explore the ethics and controversy of the ‘grinds’ and other marine mammal hunts – oddly enough he documented the actual event during the second day of discussions.
The drive hunts, or the ‘grinds,’ are an extremely inhumane practice where entire family groups are rounded up out at sea by small motor boats and driven to the shore where they are killed in shallow bays. Once they beach, blunt-ended metal hooks inserted into their blowholes are used to drag the whales up the beach or in the shallows, where they are killed with a knife cut to their major blood vessels. WDCS believes that the driving, dragging and killing, all of which takes place within view of their pod members, is intensely stressful and cruel. Pilot whales, and other species, including bottlenose dolphins, Atlantic white-sided dolphins and northern bottlenose whales, are still hunted for their meat in the Faroe Islands.
Although it is pure coincidence that the hunt took place during these discussions, WDCS is not surprised that one occurred. While there is no formal season for the ‘grinds,’ they are often conducted in the summer months when the animals can be found closer to shore during the whales’ calving and breeding season. However, this recent hunt at Sandur is surprising considering anecdotal reports that meat is still widely available from a very large grind that took place there two years ago. Hunts can occur opportunistically all year round. 1,107 pilot whales were killed in 2010, and 726 in 2011.
“WDCS is saddened to hear the news from the Faroe Islands today, even as formal discussions questioning the necessity and cruelty of these hunts were happening there,” stated Courtney Vail, WDCS campaigns manager. “From our perspective, the ‘grinds’ and all hunts should be relegated to the history books. We will remain committed to finding a solution to their end as these brutal hunts have no place in a civilized society.”
Prior to this event, the most recent grind occurred on May 16th on the Island of Suduroy in Trongisvágur where 63 pilot whales were killed. The last grind at Trongisvagur took place on November 20, 2011 when 21 pilot whales were killed. The hunts can be carried out in any of 24 sanctioned bays around the Faroe Islands, where sandy beaches make it conducive to driving the pilot whales close to shore among the 18 main islands.
WDCS has been conducting field work along the Western Isles of Scotland for the past two years focused on Risso’s dolphins, and have encountered pilot whales on two separate occasions. Given that pilot whale distribution in the North Atlantic includes the Faroe Islands and Scotland, we dont know whether the animals taken in the Faroes are the same animals that we encounter off the coast of Scotland. With a distance of only 228 nautical miles (262 miles) between the two landmasses and a species that are known to cover large distances it is possible that these gentle and highly sociable whales are from the same population.
All Photos (c) Hans Peter Roth
Related programme links:Killing and trade
UK European Seas (North East Atlantic)