As many as 1,000 long-finned pilot whales are brutally killed in the Faroe Islands each year. Other cetaceans such as dolphins may be slaughtered as well, but pilot whales are the main targets.
The killing occurs mainly during the summer months during communal hunts that locals refer to as "grindadráp" or simply, “the grind,” but more accurately this practice should be called what it truly is - mass slaughter.
The pilot whale grind is similar to the annual dolphin drive hunt slaughter in Taiji, Japan,documented in the Academy Award-winning film The Cove. The similarities between these brutal hunts have made the Faroe Islands known to many as “The Taiji of the North”. The main difference, and the challenge for Sea Shepherd, is that there are at least 23 different coves in the Faroes where a grind could potentially take place, as opposed to
one main killing cove in Taiji.
The majority of North Atlantic cetaceans give birth to their calves in the warm waters of the equator before migrating past the Faroe Islands to feed in the nutrient rich waters of Svalbard and the Arctic. Long-finned pilot whales pass by the North Atlantic Islands while pursuing squid, their main source of food.
Recorded first as early as 1586, the Faroese developed a method of whaling that involves stranding pods of small cetaceans on certain designated beaches. When a pod of cetaceans, primarily long- and short-finned pilot whales (bottlenose dolphins, Atlantic white-beaked dolphins, Atlantic white-sided dolphins and harbor porpoises can also be taken) are spotted offshore, the grind, or whale slaughter, commences.
Small boats herd the cetaceans towards a low-lying shore. As the pod approaches land,the boats continue to harass and frighten the mammals until they’re washed up on shore.
Once beached, a knife is used to cut through the veins and arteries that supply blood to the pilot whales head. Some pilot whales suffer for as much as 30 seconds while others can take several minutes to die.
Those pilot whales that do not wash ashore have a gaff hook beaten into their blowhole and are then pulled ashore by rope.
The whale meat is divided up among the locals, although many times the whale meat is simply left to rot on the beach.
SEA SHEPHERD IN THE FAROES
Operation GrindStop 2014 is Sea Shepherd’s largest, most wide-ranging and longest campaign in the Faroes to date.
The goal of this campaign is to maintain a constant presence during the peak killing months of the grind season in the Faroes to document and obstruct grinds from taking place. Sea Shepherd will remain in the Faroe Islands until October 1.
Sea Shepherd crew members are patrolling both land and sea, as onshore and offshore teams monitor the coves and waters for any sign of grind readiness.
Should a grind commence, Sea Shepherd will intervene, when at all possible, to prevent the unnecessary and cruel slaughter of such precious marine wildlife.
This campaign follows a similar strategy to the Operation Infinite Patience campaign in Taiji, which has been successful in reducing the number of dolphins killed, at times by as much as half, because of the ongoing presence there of Sea Shepherd’s Cove Guardians.
In 2010, Sea Shepherd sent an undercover operative to the Faroe Islands to document and expose the grind. The operation yielded shocking images of hundreds of slaughtered pilot whales – including pregnant females, infants and unborn calves – which made
international headlines, exposing the brutality of the grind.
During the Operation Ferocious Isles campaign in 2011, not a single whale was killed while Sea Shepherd patrolled the Islands.
Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has been the leading opposition against the slaughter of pilot whales in the Danish Faroe Islands.
Sea Shepherd Founder Captain Paul Watson has led campaigns to oppose the hunt in 1985, 1986, 2000, and again in 2011.
Sea Shepherd was also successful in convincing 20,000 stores in two grocery chains in Germany to boycott Faroese fish products.
Sea Shepherd's efforts against the Faroese grind are documented in the BBC documentary “Black Harvest.”
QUESTION OF LEGALITY
The long-finned pilot whale is listed in Appendix II of Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), meaning that the International Union for Conservation of Nature has determined that although the species is not necessarily threatened with extinction, it may become so
unless hunting is closely controlled. With a wide range of threats to populations, from military sonar to entanglement in fishing gear, it is believed that populations could face a reduction of 30% over three generations.
Therefore, the Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats classifies the long-finned pilot whale as “strictly protected” under Appendix II.
While the Faroe Islands are not a member of the European Union, they remain a Danish Protectorate. In other words, even though the Faroes are self-governing, Denmark controls the police, defense, foreign policy, and the currency.
The primary reason for the Faroes abstaining from joining the EU was in an effort to prevent the EU from meddling in their fishing policies. The slaughter of cetaceans is illegal within the European Union.
North Atlantic pilot whales, because of their position in the food chain as an apex predator, are poisoned by large amounts of environmental pollutants. Meat resulting from the grind contains high amounts of arsenic, cadmium, zinc, lead, copper mercury, and
In 2008, the chief medical officers of the Islands, Pal Weihe and Hogni Joensen, declared that pilot whale meat contains too much mercury and other contaminants to be safe for human consumption. Children and pregnant women in particular have been warned not to
eat the meat. Mercury poisoning has been found among Islanders resulting in “damage to fetal neural development, high blood pressure, and impaired immunity in children, as well as increased rates of Parkinson’s disease, circulatory problems and possibly
infertility in adults.”