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In a typical grindadrap drive hunt, a pod of pilot whales or Atlantic white sided dolphins is chased by dozens of small fishing boats, private speedboats, high powered RIBs, and sometimes jet skis, often for many miles and for several hours- an action itself which is illegal in Denmark, the UK, the entire European Union, and many other countries around the world due to the proven stress it causes to the animals.

There is rarely, if ever, any attempt to split large pods into a smaller group which can be more humanely killed by the number of Faroese men waiting on the beach. Neither is there any separation of animals to be released because they are pregnant or are a new mother with a young calf. An attempt to do so would anyway likely fail as the pilot whale family structure and the bonding between these intelligent animals is so strong it would make it almost impossible to get them to leave each other.

In fact, the method of the grindadrap drive hunt makes best use of the pilot whales or dolphins total dedication to their family members, to ensure every individual of the pod is driven into the shallows and none even try to escape while the killers on the beach go from animal to animal, killing each in turn in front of their relatives, until all lay dead - their family and their genetic heritage wiped out within a few hours.

What does this mean?

It means that the pro-whaling claim of a humane hunt of “wild animals who have lived long free lives" is far from an honest description of the hunts.

The unborn, the weaning babies and juvenile pilot whales or dolphins have not had long, happy and free lives. Even if many of the animals have lived to become adults and are lucky enough to have had calves of their own - they have likely to have already endured many challenges caused by humans. They may have suffered physical stress or illness caused by industrial pollutants in the ocean, much of which has bioaccumulated in species they depend on as food. They have had to avoid being killed as bycatch by industrial fishing vessels or be entangled and drowned in ghostnets. They have had to flee from and sometimes be disorientated by noise from shipping, naval exercises, or fossil fuel exploration. Many have had to also endure internal damage or slow starvation from accidentally ingesting plastic marine debris.

Unborn pilot whales, ignored in official statistics and by Faroese politicians [photos by Sea Shepherd]

At almost every grindadrap hunt (and our crew have been present at 48 hunts since Operation Bloody Fjords was launched in 2017 alone), our volunteers document young calves who have just begun their lives, and pregnant mothers who are carrying those yet to be born.

These unborn dolphins and pilot whales are never included by the Faroese in their national 'grind' statistics or mentioned in their news articles. They are certainly never given any consideration by the Faroese parliament or by Faroese or Danish law makers when they discuss the Grindadrap, and continue to declare it to be ethical and sustainable, albeit to their standards which are far below those used by most other European nations.

But shouldn’t we mention, count, and consider them? We believe we should.

On the 7th of May 2022 in the first hunt of the year, a pod of 63 pilot whales were killed. That’s the official number counted by the grind foreman in charge of the hunt - though actually a few days later the Faroese subtracted 2 from the statistics for a presently unknown reason.

That day, Sea Shepherd crew documented 10 pregnant mothers, and 10 dead foetuses dumped in bins and fish crates destined to be discarded. This is common practice and is regularly seen on the docksides and car parks where animals are cut open following a hunt.

These pilot whales never got the chance to grow into adults, to experience having young of their own, or spend years swimming free as some Faroese would have you believe.

Juvenile pilot whales, lives cut short by the grindadrap hunts [photos by Sea Shepherd]

Each female pilot whale gives birth to 4 to 5 young on average. The loss of those females and their unborn calves, and their never to be created calves for generations to come, has potentially significant consequences to the survival of the species given all the risks they face already, as well as the loss of genetic diversity and the strength which comes with it within the North Atlantic population of the future. This issue is just not talked about in the Faroe Islands.

Also not discussed is another hidden issue about the grindadrap.

It is correct that the vast majority of the animals from each hunt are indeed butchered, have their meat and blubber distributed and sometimes traded among the Faroese. That does not mean the grindadrap is sustainable or even responsibly carried out, even by the normal standards of a pro-hunting community. Leaving aside for now the fact that the meat and blubber is proven to be significantly contaminated and really should never be eaten for health reasons, or that the Faroese politicians should have acted years ago to ban the sale of tainted meat to unsuspecting tourists, indeed they should have banned the eating of pilot whale for the sake of their own people's health. What we have come to realise over 14 campaign years and has been confirmed by locals our crew have spoken to, is that possibly only 1/3rd of all the meat and blubber distributed is ever eaten at all.

Vast quantities of pilot whale meat is stored in home freezers for years unused (our crew have seen bags of pilot whale meat in freezers well over 4 years old as noted from the dates and locations of the hunt marked on many of the wrappings or bags). We believe that it is not uncommon in the Faroe Islands for older unused or unwanted meat to be thrown away simply to make space for meat portions from a new hunt. Shockingly, this means that maybe 2/3rds of all the pilot whales and dolphins which lose their lives in hunts - were killed for no reason at all.

With a yearly average of around 1156 small cetaceans killed each year in the Faroe Islands over the past 4 decades, about 770 may never end up feeding anyone. Even if a small amount of this meat is used to feed pets, or used in other ways such as in fishing / shark fishing bait as we suspect, the grindadrap remains a cruel, irresponsible and unnecessary activity which should have been stopped years ago as the Faroese became wealthy European citizens with a thriving fishing based economy, increasingly lucrative tourist industry, and have for years benefitted from international trade agreements with many countries as well as subsidies from Denmark.

UPDATE during the writing of this commentary:

Yesterday evening (24th May 2022) a pod was spotted in Víkarfjörður, Suðuroy at around 8pm. It appears the Faroese then managed, either by design (given the international and even Faroese outrage at the killing of 1428 dolphins on the 12th of September last year), or simply by accident, to separate some Atlantic white sided dolphins from the pilot whales, leaving a pod the chasing boats estimated to number 60 animals.

However, after the pod of pilot whales was driven onto the killing beach at Vágur at around 10:30pm and when the killing was done, the Faroese found they had killed 119 pilot whales (estimates of the pod size are often wildly inaccurate during the drive itself). Some of the whales had boat propellor cut marks on their bodies and there were again many pregnant females.

Due to the late time of the hunt on Suðuroy, our crew had no ferry available to travel to document the hunt itself. However, members of our crew have livestreamed and documented the butchering of the whales, and the dumping of unwanted remains over a cliff into the sea.

As of today (25th May 2022) a total of 182 pilot whales have already been killed in the Faroe Islands this year in the first two hunts:

7th May at Sandágerði (near Tórshavn) - 63 long finned pilot whales*

24th May at Vágur (on Suðuroy) - 119 long finned pilot whales*

*not counting unborn calves

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For more information, or for press enquiries please contact Sea Shepherd on:
faroes@seashepherduk.org
media@seashepherduk.org
media@seashepherdglobal.org

The web pages for Operation Bloody Fjords are at: https://www.seashepherd.org.uk/campaigns/operation-bloody-fjords/ 

The Statistics of the Grindadrap - https://www.seashepherd.org.uk/campaigns/operation-bloody-fjords/statistics-of-the-grindadrap.html

The social media page for the campaign is at: https://www.facebook.com/OpBloodyFjords/

View photos and videos from Sea Shepherd UK’s campaigns including the last 5 years of Operation Bloody Fjords at: https://seashepherduk.myportfolio.com/ 
 
Sea Shepherd UK can be followed at: https://www.seashepherd.org.uk/ and at https://www.facebook.com/SeaShepherdUK

Sea Shepherd UK's Ghostnet Campaign crew were out all last weekend diving a wreck site off the East Coat of Yorkshire in our newly launched boat 'Spectre' (an Offshore 105 boat complete with stern mounted diver lift and newly upgraded electronics, sonar, and navigation) and what a great weekend haul they had!

Our 10 boat crew and divers were up very early to ensure we could get 'Spectre' through the lock gates at Grimsby's Royal Dock to then transit via the River Humber to a wreck around 1 mile from the shore at Withernsea.

On Saturday, 6 divers went down to survey and remove discarded / lost fishing gear, and we recovered several creel pots and lengths of fishing rope from the wreck site.

Further ghost fishing gear retrieval dives on Sunday completed Spectre's first active campaign weekend which was a huge learning curve having to operate in and close to such a heavily commercialised marine environment such as the Humber, but our crew and divers coped admirably with all the challenges.

Probably one of the biggest obstacles was the lack of visibility at the dive site on Sunday, with our divers having only 1 to 2 metres of visibility most of the time. Despite this, our 7 SDI ghostnet Retrieval certified divers managed to recover another 8 creel / lobster pots, bringing the total for the weekend to 18 plus several long lengths of rope.

Given the lack of visibility, it demonstrates the extent of the problem faced by wildlife in the North Sea. If our divers can find so many lost or discarded pots in such a short space of time, with almost no visibility, it's clear that there must be hundreds of thousands of lost or discarded creel pots and associated rope lines in the area.

Sea Shepherd UK would like to thank all those volunteer boat crew and divers who gave up their time to join the campaign last weekend. Without their dedication to the cause, and the commitment of our partners in the UK Ghost Gear Coalition (UKGGC), untold amounts of wildlife would continue be killed by such 'Ghost' gear.

In one of the pots lifted was a live lobster covered in her eggs which was gently cut from the pot and then released back into the sea as was all other marine life discovered in the creels.

Many thanks to all those volunteers involved!

Watch our campaign page on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/ghostnetcampaign for the next multi-day ghostnet wreck dive using Spectre over the Jubilee Weekend.

Kristján Loftsson, CEO of the Icelandic whaling company 'Hvalur hf' has stated in the Icelandic media that his ships will once again be hunting threatened Fin whales (the second largest whale species after the blue whale). Based on previous whaling season statistics and conversations with Hvalur hf whaling crew, we expect Loftsson's intention is to kill at least 140 Fin whales between mid-June and early September, with his Icelandic Government permit allowing potentially up to 180 to be killed.

Loftsson has admitted in the Icelandic press that his whaling company 'Hvalur hf' has been involved in a long tug of war with the Food Administration (MAST) due to issues around hygiene at the whaling station in Hvalfjörður, issues which Sea Shepherd documented and reported to MAST via Sea Shepherd Legal and an Icelandic law firm during 2018.

Hvalur hf has now received a license to process whale products as reported in the Icelandic newspaper Morgunblaðið: https://bit.ly/3D7p14l 

Currently the whaling ship Hvalur 9 is out of the water in Reykjavik for repairs and maintenance, and we can expect Hvalur 8 also to be repaired over the next 2 months in preparation for whaling this summer - https://bit.ly/357hAOi 

In 2018, Sea Shepherd UK launched Operation Mjölnir which documented an entire Icelandic fin whaling season. See: https://bit.ly/3wvnEeA & https://bit.ly/3twIgkM and Sea Shepherd UK intends to again make sure Hvalur hr cannot kill Fin whales including pregnant mothers - and indeed as happened last year, make sure that Loftsson does not get away with illegally killing rare Blue / Fin Hybrid whales.

Whaling ship Hvalur 8 returning with 2 whales one Blue whale and one Fin whale. 12th July 2018. Photo Sea Shepherd UKWhaling ship Hvalur 8 returning with two whales; one Blue whale and one Fin whale on 12th July 2018. Photo credit: Sea Shepherd UK

Minke Whaling in Iceland has ended, and Fin whaling by Loftsson is expected to end when the current 4-year licence block expires at the end of 2023 as reported at https://bit.ly/3qt9szc

Loftsson's whaling company is on its way out. However, Loftsson seems to want to continue whaling to the bitter end.

Sea Shepherd will not allow Loftsson to cruelly harpoon these magnificent whales in secret. The world will see every whale which Hvalur 8 and Hvalur 9 brings back to the whaling station at Midsandur on Hvalfjordur.

Iceland is one of only three nations (the others being Norway and Japan) that have chosen to ignore the 1986 international moratorium on hunting the great whales.

Hvalur hf's aging whaling ships use explosive harpoons that often do not instantly kill the whales, with Sea Shepherd crew in 2018 documenting dozens of whales with 2, and sometimes 3 harpoons embedded in them.

A majority of Icelanders are now against whaling and there is no local market for fin whale meat, so Hvalur hf has to export around 95% of its products to Japan.

Whale watching in Iceland is a responsible and highly profitable alternative to the whaling industry and is growing in popularity as people visit Iceland to see these majestic marine mammals swimming free in the oceans where they belong.

Please email or write polite letters voicing your support for Iceland's whale watching industry and the establishment of a national whale sanctuary in Iceland's territorial waters:

Katrín Jakobsdóttir 
Prime Minister of Iceland
The Prime Minister's Office
Stjornarradshusid vid Laekjartorg
101 Reykjavik , Iceland

E-mail: postur@for.is 

Icelandic Tourism Board 
Geirsgata 9
101 Reykjavík, Iceland

E-mail: upplysingar@ferdamalastofa.is 

Donate to Sea Shepherd UK to support the campaign and end all whaling in Iceland: https://www.seashepherd.org.uk/news-and-commentary/news/donate 

 

I am a member of Sea Shepherd UK, part of the wider Sea Shepherd movement that operates around the world to defend, conserve and protect marine wildlife and habitats. Here is an easy way that you can save billions of marine organisms and microorganisms, no matter where you live! 

Governmental marine and land management departments and harbour masters (among many others) have been pouring bleach, Sodium Hypochlorite or Sodium Hydroxide on hard surfaces around intertidal zones around the world for decades. They do this to remove algae and weed from piers, steps, and slipways. The harmful corrosive products kill the algae and weed, which the tide then takes out to sea while the product used contaminates local waters and kills marine life in the immediate area. 

The problem with this is two-fold. Firstly, algae produce almost as much oxygen as trees and sequesters carbon. It is inexcusable in these times to knowingly destroy swathes of algae when our climate catastrophe desperately needs oxygen producers and carbon sequesters. Secondly, that bleach, also known as liquid sodium hypochlorite, is a biocide. ‘Bio’ meaning ‘living’, and ‘cide’ as a suffix, from the Latin, meaning ‘killer’. It kills living organisms - everything it touches, until it eventually disperses and breaks down. This is global, government-sanctioned mass ecocide and it must stop. 

Sodium hypochlorite is a very harmful biohazard for the public using these areas for leisure, their children, and dogs, not to mention seriously hazardous for the workmen employed to apply it, who must wear full PPE and avoid breathing in the fumes. It’s also completely toxic for all aquatic-life and wildlife. It burns any living tissue (dog pads, children’s skin) and scorches to death all the organisms and microorganisms that live in the intertidal zone where it is applied; snails, crabs, mussels, worms, and a multitude of marine plants, including eelgrass. 

Eelgrasses are declining worldwide. Eelgrass is protected in Europe; scarce eelgrass beds are a UKBAP Priority Habitat and an “important feature” in estuary Sites of Special Scientific Interest, under the UK Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981; it is protected in US territories under the Federal Fisheries Act. 

The intertidal organisms that are destroyed by the sodium hypochlorite would otherwise serve as the food source for many other animals, such as sea and shore birds, and fish. The small fish and intertidal crustaceans that would eat the algae in the intertidal zones are in turn a food source for bigger fish, which in turn support marine mammals such as seals, as well as of course being pertinent to the economic success of local fishermen. 

For example, of the harm caused to living organisms, published research shows that fish suffer incredibly painful deaths when exposed to sodium hypochlorite, where they experience reduced oxygen uptake due to gill damage; the destruction of fin membrane of the dorsal fin where the bleach ‘melts’ the tissue; and severe congestion of blood vessels and capillaries - all of which, of course, leads to mortality. 

The intertidal zone is a very delicate ecosystem. It should not be scorched with bleach. There are other ways to remove weed and algae which do no harm at all. 

One option is to simply scrub the potentially slippery marine plant life off the substrates with a stiff broom and some elbow grease. This course of action is rejected by government marine and land management departments and harbour masters because it is time-consuming, and therefore they say it is not ‘cost-effective’, because it incurs man hours that need to be paid. 

Another option is to use a non-biocidal marine cleaner. There is a completely non-toxic product that removes algae and weed from the substrate it grows upon, therefore removing the slip concern and any subsequent legal concerns, and it does so cause zero harm to the algae and weed itself, which just then floats off on the next tide, still being of value to the marine ecosystem as a living food source and living habitat. It also does zero harm to the organisms living in and feeding upon the algae and weed in place when the product is applied; snails and crabs continue to thrive in and on the treated area, even during application! Further, the persons applying this product do not need to wear PPE, nor worry about ingesting or inhaling it. 

The product is called Marine Algae Cleaner (MAC), and it is produced in the U.K. by OLEONIX. It passed all the requirements of the Environment Agency to be used without a permit, and because it is so innocuous it is REACH registration exempt. It’s used safely in food and drinks factories, in homes for drains and floors, around pets and in ports and harbours around the world. MAC is so harmless that it is approved for use in the food and drinks industries and is in fact completely edible! 

The product lifts the algae and weed completely undamaged from the substrate by a process of micriolysis, and inhibits regrowth on the surfaces treated, meaning subsequent applications will be required less and less frequently compared to sodium hypochlorite; this therefore saves future costs in terms of man hours and volume of product use. The MAC is cheaper per litre than sodium hypochlorite, does no harm to the land nor aquatic environment, does not damage equipment nor substrate surfaces, and does not endanger the public, wildlife, or pets, nor the workmen applying it. 

Here’s how you can help save billions of marine organisms and microorganisms:

  • If you are cleaning a small-scale dock, pier, steps, pathway, or a slipway yourself, do not use any toxic substances to assist you. Get at it with a stiff broom or brush. It might take a bit of effort, but it’s free, and it won’t kill any organisms. 
  • Approach your local harbour master, government marine and land management department, or any other body who operates along the coast, and find out what they use to clean away weed and algae. If it’s sodium hypochlorite, show them this article, ask them to switch to an alternative, non-biocidal marine cleaner. Follow up with them. 
  • Promote the use of non-biocidal marine cleaners by word of mouth, in writing and on your socials

MAC treated algae or weed is safe to touch and safe for the environment!MAC treated algae or weed is safe to touch and safe for the environment!

Old stone and concrete pier at Portelet in Guernsey seen covered in weed before treatment with MACOld stone and concrete pier at Portelet in Guernsey seen covered in weed before treatment with MAC

Old stone and concrete pier at Portelet in Guernsey seen clear of weed after treatment with MACOld stone and concrete pier at Portelet in Guernsey seen clear of weed after treatment with MAC

Commentary by Sea Shepherd CEO Captain Alex Cornelissen

dolphin by-catch

Over the past five years Sea Shepherd has focused on Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated fishing (IUU fishing). Our campaigns, primarily in West Africa, have given us a wealth of information regarding the impact of both IUU fisheries as well as large scale industrial fisheries on the ocean.

It’s clear that mankind is killing all life in the ocean, and for some reason that goes largely unnoticed.

Life forms in the ocean continue to be objectified:

  • Species of fish are being referred to as “stock”
  • Extraction of life forms is being described as “harvest”
  • Quantities are measured in weight instead of individual organisms
  • All species are simply referred to as “seafood”
  • And most importantly, the myth that fish don’t feel pain

Obviously, this is carefully chosen language so potential consumers don’t question the way we extract fish and other creatures from our ocean. But our crew out on the water see this destruction every day when they interact with fishing vessels.

We see the amount of bycatch of species that aren’t commercially exploitable simply killed and discarded back into the ocean.

We see sharks killed by the thousands by tuna boats that are so-called “dolphin friendly”.

We see dolphins killed by many fishermen who considered them a pest for eating “our fish”.

We see seals sharing the same fate as the dolphins because they’re competition for our fisheries.

There is something fundamentally wrong with the way we look at the natural world, the way we have separated ourselves from the very ecosystem we are part of. This particularly applies to the way we see the ocean. We dump our waste there because we think it’s large enough that no one will notice. We take whatever we want because we think the ocean is an infinite source of protein.

Our appetite and demand for fish is now so great that we stop at nothing to get the deliverables. Habitat destruction and species extinction seems to be acceptable in this process.

But even global fisheries are beginning to see the end of the industry, they are well aware of the fact that if we continue at our current rate of extraction, we will have emptied out our ocean in less than three decades. Pressure is on the industry to keep up with demand and to keep the prices low, but with dwindling fish populations it is increasingly hard to maintain supply. Prices are kept artificially low through global subsidies favoring industrial large-scale fisheries. These then compete illegally with coastal subsistence and artisanal fisheries, causing further problems in regions already at risk due to food scarcity. Other operators don’t shy away from forced unpaid labor to lower their cost, treating workers as expendables.

And of course, there’s the perpetual lie that eating fish is a healthy choice for people’s diet. We have polluted the world’s ocean to the point that it affects the entire food chain, with pollutants concentrating as you move higher up the chain. For years, pregnant women have been warned not to eat tuna or swordfish due to the high levels of mercury, a situation that is only getting worse the more we pollute our natural world.

We are at a point in history where we will need to make a choice:

Do we stop supporting the destructive and unsustainable industry that is destroying our ocean or do we continue down our current path and find our ocean empty within our lifetime? Either choice leads to the same result: we will stop eating fish either now or in 30 years. Only the longer we wait, the more irreversible the situation will become. Our “infinite” source of protein has reached its limit, so it’s time we make the necessary choices to restore the balance in our ocean.

We are seeing the results of our campaigns to stop IUU fishing in West Africa, with fish populations bouncing back and ecosystems recovering only after a few years. But these areas are not big enough to repopulate entire regions. Enforcing regulations and expanding the areas under protection against IUU fishing and large-scale industrial fishing are the base of Sea Shepherd’s current campaigns. Together with our government partners we are shutting down dozens of illegal operators every year, and in the process we are saving millions of lives.

It’s a matter of survival to stop the war against the ocean. It’s a fight that we cannot afford to lose. A fight that will intensify in the coming years when fish populations continue to decline. But also a fight that – with your support – we intend to win.

PurseSeiner

Txori Berri Boarding

Inspection Lian FengYu

On Vessel Hauling

 

 

 

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Sea Shepherd Commentary & Editorial articles from 2012 and earlier.

For articles from 2013 and newer, visit our Sea Shepherd Commentary & Editorials page.

 
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