Cull of 1,400 dolphins in Faroe Islands raises controversy

The dissemination of images of hundreds of dolphins killed by hunters from the Faroe Islands, in the North Atlantic, has just revived the controversy over this so-called “traditional” hunt in the archipelago. If the authorities defend this practice, animal groups are calling for an end to hunting, which is not governed by international rules on the management of cetaceans.

The images first broadcast by the Sea Shepherd organization quickly circulated on social networks. You can see hundreds white-sided dolphins dead and bathing in a red sea of ​​blood. These cetaceans, which belong to a species that is regularly observed in the St. Lawrence, were killed one by one by hunters from the Faroe Islands, an archipelago attached to Denmark, but located in the middle of the Atlantic, in the north of Scotland. .

“It is shocking and cruel to see such images”, summed up the To have to John Hourston, spokesperson for the organization Blue Planet Society, which campaigns against ocean pollution and overfishing.

According to a statement confirmed at To have to by local authorities, as many as 1,428 dolphins were shot in a single day of hunting earlier this week. As is the case with pilot whale hunting operations (another species hunted in the Faroe Islands), the animals were driven back to the coast before being killed. This operation would have lasted several hours, according to testimonies collected by the British daily The Guardian, dolphins dying on the shore.

“Everything indicates that this is the largest single-day hunt in the history of the Faroe Islands,” a spokesperson for the British branch of Sea Shepherd, Robert Read, argued by email. “That such a hunt occurs in 2021, when the needs of the local populations absolutely do not justify it and that this meat is contaminated anyway, is quite simply scandalous. “

A former representative of the local hunters, Hans Jacob Hermansen, told the Guardian that this capture of hundreds of dolphins, with the images which were subsequently broadcast, “destroyed” all efforts to restore the image of the Faroe Islands, which for several years have tried to convince opponents that this traditional hunt is part of the island’s way of life. “It is a gift to all those who dream of the end of the Grind “, The name given to whale hunting in the archipelago.

The inhabitants of the Faroe Islands indeed hunt cetaceans that have lived around the archipelago for hundreds of years. They kill around 1000 small cetaceans each year, mainly pilot whales, animals reach a size similar to an adult beluga, about five meters.

In a written response to questions from To have to, the communications manager of the Faroe Islands Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Páll Nolsøe, underlined the essential character of this hunt for the inhabitants. “There is no doubt that this whaling offers a dramatic vision for people who are not familiar with the killing of mammals, but this hunt is well organized and fully regulated,” he said. Explain.

According to him, the white-sided dolphin is an “abundant” species around the archipelago and hunters in the Faroe Islands kill around 250 each year. The slaughter of 1,428 of these dolphins this week therefore represents an “exceptionally” important hunt. But Mr. Nolsøe assures that the meat will be distributed among the population, as is the case for other hunting campaigns that are held throughout the year.

Note: the hunting of small cetaceans, such as dolphins, is not governed by the rules of the International Whaling Commission, an organization established in 1946 to oversee the management of cetacean populations around the world – of which Canada is not a member.

Toxic meat

The consumption of this meat also raises questions about the health of the citizens of the archipelago.

Studies on pilot whales captured in the archipelago have already demonstrated high mercury contamination in their meat.

An analysis published in 2012 in the International Journal of Circumpolar Health even issued a clear warning: “From a human health point of view, it is recommended that pilot whale meat no longer be used for human consumption. “

Despite the findings of science, Páll Nolsøe praises the merits of whale meat in the diet of the Faroese. He nevertheless recognizes that their “local food” is today threatened by pollution of the marine environment, which accumulates in the meat of whales, animals that can live for several years. “Limits” have also been established, in particular for pregnant women, who are encouraged to “reduce their consumption”.

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