Sea Shepherd UK’s campaign to document and expose the killing of endangered Fin whales by the Icelandic whaling company ‘Hvalur hf’
SEA SHEPHERD’S CAMPAIGN TO END FIN WHALING IN ICELAND
In 1986, two Sea Shepherd Conservation Society activists scuttled half of Loftsson's whaling fleet in Reykjavik harbour (the whaling ships Hvalur 6 and Hvalur 7) and sabotaged Hvalur hf's whaling station. The two damaged ships never went whaling again and now sit on the beach just East of the whaling station rusting away. This now famous anti-whaling action was reported around the world and managed to shut down Iceland's illegal whaling operations for 17 years. Many thousands of whale lives were saved.
Since Sea Shepherd's action in 1986, opposition to whaling within Iceland has increased from an insignificant 2% to now over 34%. Those who support whaling (also 34%) tend to be older poorly educated Icelandic men according to the Icelandic media.
As recently as 2013, an Icelandic poll stated that 60% of Icelanders supported whaling. From 60% down to 34% in just five years shows incredible progress and corresponds to a diminishing older population.
In May 2018 it was clear that Loftsson intended to re-start whaling with repair work starting on Hvalur 8 and Hvalur 9 in Reykjavik harbour - so Sea Shepherd UK decided to start 'Operation Mjölnir' (Thor's Hammer) - a new comprehensive campaign to document, expose and ultimately hammer the final nail in the coffin of 'Hvalur hf' before the Icelandic Parliament debates if to issue another 5 year block of whaling permits to kill endangered Fin whales.
A few NGO's and some Icelandic have reported on Hvalur hf's whaling in recent years from Hvalfjordur, though most only only at times during the first week of the whaling season - with the notable exception of the German conservation group 'Hard to Port' which has reported from Iceland since 2013 for much longer periods. However, with Sea Shepherd UK's 'Operation Mjölnir' the activities Hvalur hf would be put truly under the global spotlight throughout the entire whaling season from the first whale to the last whale - something that Hvalur hf and the Icelandic government had never experienced before.
By the end of the whaling season 146 whales had been cruelly killed by the harpoons of Hvalur 8 and 9 in Icelandic waters including 144 Endangered Fin whales of various ages with around 21 (TBC) of those harpooned when they were pregnant. Two whales however were not Fin whales (the only whale type listed on Hvalur hf’s Icelandic government issued whaling permit).
Sea Shepherd UK’s crew on Operation Mjölnir who travelled from England, Wales, Scotland, Shetland, Jersey, France, USA and Canada working in small teams staying around Hvalfjörður and Akranes from the 18th June for a total of 101 days covering the entire whaling season
Sea Shepherd crew maintained a 24hr watch on the Icelandic coastline by Akranes and around Hvalfjörður and managed to:
- Document 145 of the 146 whales killed by Hvalur hf during 2018 (missing just 1 during an unavoidable international crew change due to flight availability between countries) using cameras, drones and livestreaming direct to the web
- Document the 98 day whaling season from when the harpoon guns were fitted on each whaling ship – to when both guns were removed and the ships sailed back to Reykjavik for the winter.
- Film the live test firing of the harpoon gun on Hvalur 9 at targets on the pier at the whaling station
- Photographed evidence of inhumane killing of the whales by poorly aimed harpoons and multiple harpoon strikes (it takes 5 minutes or more between harpoons due to the slow reloading process)
- Filmed incoming whaling ships with harpooned whales tied to their hulls from land, using drones and from a kayak
- Photographed and filmed dead fetuses, some almost full term being removed from around 12 pregnant whales and being dragged away (sometimes despite attempts by the whaling station workers to shield them from view
- Documented the butchering processes of the whales from the land and by drones including the unhygienic methods used
- Photographed the shooting of seabirds on the whaling station slipway by a Hvalur hf worker
- Harpooned Blue and Blue/Fin Hybrid whales
- Photographed and filmed at least 2 whales being landed already bloated with gases from decomposition
- Photographed an IBC tank of whale blood being removed from a whaling ship and part of the equipment still embedded in whale 143 which is used to remove the whale’s blood (the same equipment is sometimes to pump in seawater to cool the inside of the whales to slow decomposition)
- Photographed the presence of Japanese inspectors/representatives at the whaling station
- Our crew also tracked and recorded ‘PPP Akranes’ transport lorries loaded with crates of whale meat and Japanese labelled boxed 'whale meat from Iceland' as they travelled from the Midsandur whaling station to a large unmarked storage building in Hafnarfjörður about 1/2 mile from an industrial port where ultimately the ‘products’ from these endangered whales will be shipped direct to Japan for human or pet food use.
- Sea Shepherd UK crew also worked on location with media from the UK, Germany, USA and notably Denmark where we filmed with the Danish Broadcasting Corporation (DR) on the filming of the Horizont program ‘Iceland’s Controversial Whaler’ which was broadcast in Denmark, Iceland and the Faroe Islands and you can watch with English subtitles here: