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The North Atlantic Red Sea: poor planning and incompetence lead to senseless cetacean death. Again.

Updated: Aug 2, 2023

On September 22nd, the Faroese news source, JN, reported that 52 long-finned pilot whales were killed in a Grindadráp on the shores of the Faroese village of Kollafjörður.

According to various sources, the pod of pilot whales was supposed to be tagged and released for research, which is why they were initially driven into the bay. However, the Faroese government’s refusal to regulate the hunting of cetaceans during research and conservation efforts meant that when it was realized there was insufficient staff to complete the tagging, the pilot whales were killed by hunters waiting in the shallows.

This latest Grindadráp comes only 10 days after 1,428 Atlantic white-sided dolphins were killed in a botched “grind” on Skálabotnur beach, which drew national and international condemnation and created a PR nightmare for the Faroese government.

The Faroe Islands’ government has stated that “The hunts are well organised, and fully regulated” however it admitted that due to the hunters inability to estimate size of the pod on September 12th there were “severe difficulties once the animals had reached the bay.” These ‘severe difficulties’ included unethical and completely inhumane management of the grind, inappropriate tools being used, an unacceptably low human/dolphin ratio, and others.

The reputational damage and incompetence of September 12th was so great that the Faroese government announced plans to evaluate the regulations on the catching of Atlantic white-sided dolphins in the Grindadráp, making the point that these cetaceans do not have an important role in Faroe Islands’ tradition and food culture. It will review ‘the dolphin hunts and what part they should play in Faroese society.’ However, the horrific events of the 12th and 22nd of September show that despite the Faroese government’s claims, these hunts are neither well organized nor well regulated, casting doubt on the ability of legislation falling short of a full ban to improve the sustainability and ethical dimensions of the grind.

This review is an important step in the right direction for the Faroese government and we support its decision to listen to the overwhelming chorus of domestic and international voices of concern. However, we believe that the government must do the right thing and introduce a legislative ban on the inhumane and cruel Grindadráp practice for both whales and dolphins.

The #StopTheGrind movement will not end until the Faroese government commits to action to prevent the fjords from running red with the blood of ruthlessly massacred cetaceans of all species.

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