About a hundred bottlenose dolphins have been slaughtered in the Faroe Islands, marking the largest hunt for this species in 124 years.
Of the 99 bottlenose dolphins killed, it is the second largest prey of this species ever recorded in the islands. The last time bottlenose dolphins were killed in such large numbers in the Faroe Islands was in 1898, where, according to data from the Faroe government, 100 dolphins were slaughtered.
The whaling season in the Faroe Islands begins in the summer months. This is a tradition that dates back about 1,200 years, when people hunted dolphins and whales during times of famine. Many dolphin species, including pilot whales and white-sided dolphins, are still killed each year for their blubber and meat.
The latest hunt took place during the lavsøka, a summer festival that takes place every year on 29 July.
The hunt was documented by the non-profit expedition group Sea Shepherd. The volunteers of the organization photographed the dead dolphins and killed them after the hunt. The organization said in a press release that they counted 98 adults, 1 calf and 1 fetus in a dead, pregnant woman.
Ocean conservation group The Blue Planet Society said on Facebook that the hunt was “terrible news”.
“We are deeply shocked that the Faroe Islands brutally killed nearly 100 bottlenose dolphins on Friday. They have not hunted this species on this scale since 1898.” John Everston, founder of the UK-based expedition group Blue Planet Society, told newsweek,
“The time, effort and pleasure that goes into seeing and studying bottlenose dolphins in the UK is immeasurable. To name many, people have a genuine affection for individual animals and they generate millions for our economy. .
“To think that furrows, effectively our neighbours, could kill these highly intelligent animals in one fell swoop, is disgusting. If the UK, Denmark and the EU were to stop the utterly irresponsible slaughter of this highly protected species If they don’t take action, they are involved in this ecocide.”
Not all Faroese people accept hunting. The practice has long been opposed by animal rights activists who see it as cruel and unnecessary.
It has been the subject of more controversy recently, following an “abnormally high” number of white-sided dolphins in September last year. It was found that 1,423 dolphins were killed in just one hunt, prompting the government to launch a review of the practice.
In July, the Faroese government announced that an annual catch limit of 500 dolphins would be implemented to prevent this from happening. However, animal rights campaigners were unhappy with the decision.
Helen O’Barry, European campaign correspondent at The Dolphin Project, told newsweek The catch limit at that time was no reason to celebrate.
“There is no way for dolphins to humanely kill pods. We now know a great deal about their complex social bonds and ability to sense tension, pain and suffering, but apparently Faroese authorities have been using mass slaughter to kill them. Refusing to see those deeply disturbing aspects,” O’Barry said.
“At first glance, one might think that a catch limit of 500 dolphins per year is good news, but look at the catch data for the past 21 years.[…]500 dolphins is still 500 too many, when one considers the suffering of the huge animals involved.”
Whalers kill dolphins before throwing them into shallow water. Hunters would use spears and thorns to bring them ashore.
Sometimes stainless steel hooks will be used to stab a dolphin blowhole. This hook is also attached to a piece of rope, which is used by hunters to drag the ashes of the animals.
Despite outrage from animal rights groups, the government believes the hunt is sustainable.
The Faroese government said in July that hunting “continues to be an important supplement to the livelihoods of the Faroe Islanders, who have for centuries relied on the sustainable use of marine resources for their economy and local food security.”
newsweek Have contacted the Faroese government for a comment.