Commentary by Erwin Vermeulen

“Abundant” and “common” are the whale killers’ favorite words, after “sustainable.” In their vocabulary, “abundant” means: “we have no idea how many animals there are, but we are going to claim, without scientific evidence, that there are enough for us to continue killing them.”
~ Erwin Vermeulen

A pod of dolphins shortly after slaughterA pod of dolphins shortly after slaughter
Photo: Sea Shepherd
That besides their proud tradition of killing entire pods of long-finned pilot whales (Globicephala melas, Grindahvalur in Faroes), the men-with-knives in the Faroes also slaughter large families of smaller dolphin species, is an uneasy subject on the islands. The two main publications in English on the subject of the drive hunt — Dorete Bloch’s ‘Pilot whales and the whale drive’ from 2007 and Joan Pauli Joensen’s ‘Pilot whaling in the Faroe Islands’ from 2009 — completely ignore the other dolphin species that are driven into the bays and butchered on the beaches of these ferocious isles.

Some of the locals are in complete denial and refute that dolphins are being killed at all; others maintain it is rare and only happens to dolphins that beach themselves and are thus put out of their misery and fully utilized for food.

Others still, follow the line of the publication ‘Marine Mammals in Faroese Waters,’ that basically blames the death of these smaller dolphin species on their habit of mingling with pilot whales:

“The bottlenose dolphin is the third species that often mixes with pilot whales and, thus, this species is also occasionally harvested.”

Of course, all of these assertions are lies. As in Taiji, Japan, dolphins are specifically targeted, driven and killed in the Faroe Islands.

On August 13, 2013, a staggering 430 Atlantic white-sided dolphins were massacred in HvalbaOn August 13, 2013, a staggering 430 Atlantic white-sided dolphins were
massacred in Hvalba
Photo: Sea Shepherd
In a recent press release from the Faroese Prime Minister’s Office titled: “Sea Shepherd activists arrested for disturbing a group of dolphins near Tórshavn,” the Faroese government hesitantly admits that much when referring to the Atlantic white-sided dolphins that Sea Shepherd’s RIB Spitfire escorted away from the deadly beaches:

“Individual animals occasionally occur together with schools of pilot whales, while separate schools are also sometimes driven and beached…”

“Sometimes” doesn’t really apply to the massacre of Atlantic white-sided dolphins (Lagenorhynchus acutus, Hvítskjórutir springari in Faroese) in the Faroe Islands:

On August 13, 2013, a staggering 430 Atlantic white-sided dolphins were massacred in Hvalba, on the southern island of Suduroy. The photos accompanying this commentary are from that day. The same village killed fourteen individuals on August 30, 2010. In 2009, on August 22, a family of 100 was killed in Øravik on the same island.

The list goes on:

Date Location Dolphins Slaughtered

26/08/2006

Hvalba

223

24/08/2006

Hvalba

3

14/08/2006

Hvalba

27

08/08/2006

Klaksvik

327

22/07/2006

Trongisvagur

6

22/02/2006

Hvalvik

1

16/08/2005

Hvalba

22 in pod with 49 pilot whales

12/08/2005

Sandavagur

12

12/08/2005

Fuglafjordur

271

07/08/2005

Trongisvagur

22

06/05/2005

Aeduvik

1

16/04/2005

Hvannasund

7

18/09/2004

Hvannasund

5

09/09/2004

Runavik

7

08/09/2004

Klaksvik

291

28/08/2004

Sydrugota

24

21/08/2004

Bordoyarvik

6

12/09/2003

Klaksvik

20

06/09/2003

Tvøroyri

6

06/09/2003

Hvannasund

50

05/09/2003

Torshavn

6

26/08/2003

Hvalvik

104

27/09/2002

Vestmanna

16

26/09/2002

Vestmanna

26

23/09/2002

Hvalba

99

17/09/2002

Hvannasund

148

17/09/2002

Sydrugota

110

16/09/2002

Torshavn

11

14/09/2002

Vagur

280

03/09/2002

Hvalba

42

03/09/2002

Hvalvik

36

19/08/2002

Hvannasund

6

22/09/2001

Klaksvik

55

21/09/2001

Hvalba

325

18/09/2001

Torshavn

46

17/09/2001

Sydrugota

48

06/09/2001

Klaksvik

26

05/09/2001

Hvannasund

18

30/06/2001

Klaksvik

8

04/09/2000

Hvalba

13

30/08/2000

Vagur

186

22/08/2000

Klaksvik

66

22/09/1998

Hovsfjordur

36

22/09/1998

Trongisvagur

219

13/09/1998

Fuglafjordur

16

27/07/1998

Famjin

167

23/10/1997

Klaksvik

6

14/10/1997

Torshavn

21

14/10/1997

Hvalvik

24

14/10/1997

Hvalvik

19

30/09/1997

Hvannasund

7

26/09/1997

Sydrugota

16

05/09/1997

Nolsoy

12

29/08/1997

Funningsfjordur

65

28/08/1997

Sydrugota

22

21/08/1997

Klaksvik

158

19/10/1996

Hvalvik

26

07/10/1996

Porkeri

6

06/10/1996

Porkeri

9

05/10/1996

Vagur

30

09/09/1996

Funningsfjordur

13

25/08/1996

Torshavn

19

12/08/1996

Klaksvik

49

04/09/1995

Hvalvik

3

26/08/1995

Hvannasund

41

20/08/1995

Fuglafjordur

110

01/08/1995

Hvalvik

3

04/10/1994

Hvalvik

5

18/09/1994

Hvalba

10

17/09/1994

Torshavn

10

14/09/1994

Vagur

20

04/09/1994

Kollafjordur

15

04/09/1994

Hvalvik

58

25/09/1993

Vagur

100

24/09/1993

Vestmanna

15

20/09/1993

Fuglafjordur

199

30/08/1993

Sydrugota

12

05/08/1993

Hvalvik

12

17/07/1993

Hvannasund

19

13/07/1993

Husavik

35

04/07/1992

Klaksvik

2 in pod of 150 pilot whales

It is not “sometimes.” These are not rare occasions, and it is not just unlucky dolphins accompanying pilot whales.

These dolphins were slaughtered and marked in similar fashion to the pilot whales hunted during a grindThese dolphins were slaughtered and marked in similar fashion to the pilot whales hunted during a grind
Photo: Sea Shepherd
1992 is when the public record (Grindayvirlit) starts when it comes to the hunting of smaller dolphin species. The list of pilot whale killings goes back to 1709 and fragmented even to 1584. This might be where the uneasiness on the subject originates. The defense and continuation of the grindadrap relies largely on the fallacy of the “appeal to tradition” — the assumption that something is good and should continue, just because it has been done for a long time.

Did a truly organized hunt of smaller dolphins not start until the 1990s? Were these smaller dolphins only taken as part of pilot whale hunts before the 1990s and unworthy of mentioning in the records? Or are the famed historical grind records not as accurate as claimed?

There is not much evidence that the slaughter of smaller dolphins should be labeled an “ancient tradition.” Hunting these faster species would have been difficult in any case before motorized boats.

The earlier mentioned study ‘Marine Mammals in Faroese Waters’ reports that 6,476 Atlantic white-sided dolphins were “harvested” (their words) in the period 1872 – 2000, without mentioning the source. For bottlenose dolphins, “whaling statistics record a harvest of 943 individuals from 1803 to 2000” — again without a source.

The public-accessible list for bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncates, Hvessingur in Faroes) is shorter:

Date Location Dolphins Slaughtered

07/08/2006

Sydrugota

9

22/02/2006

Sydrugota

8 in a pod a 29 pilot whales

17/09/2002

Klaksvik

11

17/09/2002

Klaksvik

7

17/08/2001

Klaksvik

6

18/09/1996

Hvalvik

2

27/08/1996

Hvalba

19

02/09/1994

Hvalvik

8

16/09/1993

Midvagur

12 in a pod of 178 Pilot whales

24/08/1993

Hvannasund

4

14/10/1991

Midvagur

62 among 127 pilot whales

The IUCN, the organization that assesses the wildlife on the Red List of Threatened Species, says about the dolphin killing in the Faroes:

“No assessment is associated with the Faroese hunting of white-sided dolphins, but there is no evidence that this aspect of the drive fishery has a long history, such as that of the pilot whale component (Reeves et al. 2003).”

The press release from the Faroese Prime Minister’s Office parrots the propagandist whaling.fo website by claiming:

“White-sided dolphins are a commonly occurring and abundant species around the Faroe Islands and as such they are not protected.”

And:

“In addition to white-sided dolphins, bottlenose dolphins and harbour porpoises are also common in Faroese waters, and may be caught for food…”

“Abundant” and “common” are the whale killers’ favorite words, after “sustainable.” In their vocabulary, “abundant” means: “we have no idea how many animals there are, but we are going to claim, without scientific evidence, that there are enough for us to continue killing them.”

Instead of elaborating on this “abundance,” the press release suffices with:

“The Scientific Committee of NAMMCO (the North Atlantic Marine Mammal Commission; an assembly of marine mammal killing nations) has been requested to provide a comprehensive assessment of this species in the North Atlantic.”

The latest surveys are from the mid-1990s and all they taught us was, as is so often the case, that we know very little:

Dolphins being lifted by a crane shortly after a slaughterDolphins being lifted by a crane
shortly after being slaughtered
Photo: Sea Shepherd
“North Atlantic Sightings Surveys (NASS) research shows that cetaceans do not occupy the same area year after year. NASS data is available for 1987, 1989, and 1995. The various species were found distributed in about the same areas in 1987 and 1989, but the 1995 survey showed that the abundance of some species was significantly different for some areas. This variation indicates that observations and surveys in the North-east Atlantic Ocean do not give a permanent picture of the distribution and abundance of whale species, but rather are snapshots of distribution patterns occurring in a changing environment according to long-term climatic oscillations in combination with possible man-made impacts.”

This quote comes again from the ‘Marine Mammals in Faroese Waters’ report that was initiated, not to prove abundance, but because “with the emergence of oil industry activity in the region of the Faroe Islands and the establishment of an Environmental Impact Assessment Program, it is necessary to review current knowledge on the marine environment and the gaps that exist in that body of knowledge…”

They even have a chapter named ‘Main Gaps in Knowledge’ that lists that “the second significant gap in our knowledge is the poor understanding of the distribution and abundance patterns of the smaller dolphin species in the Faroese area.”

On bottlenose dolphins it says:

“…no calculation of abundance has been made thus far. A very cautious estimate of the number of bottlenose dolphins in the Faroese area is around 1,000 individuals.”

Is that a good enough “abundance” to go ahead and catch as many as you can? Remember that, unlike Japan, the Faroes do not set quota limitations.

A bit further in the text, the general conclusion is:

“A lack of controlled data, therefore, has made it difficult to determine the exact number of smaller dolphin species, such as the white-sided dolphin, the white-beaked dolphin, the bottlenose dolphin, and the harbour porpoise, as well as rarely occurring species. Thus, there exits a major gap in our knowledge as to the distribution and abundance patterns of all the smaller cetacean species.”

In other words: the Faroese government is lying when it claims abundance or sustainability in the drive hunt.

Besides that, they don’t really seem to know which dolphin species can be killed. The press release and government website mention Atlantic white-sided and bottlenose dolphins and harbour porpoises, besides the long-finned pilot whales.

The February 2014 NAMMCO ‘manual on pilot whale hunting in the Faroe Islands’ produced in cooperation with Faroese Chief Veterinarian Justines Olsen and the Grindamannafelagið (Pilot Whalers’ Association), includes the following species: long-finned pilot whale, bottlenose dolphin, white-beaked dolphin and white-sided dolphin.

The harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena, Nisa in Faroese) is absent here, maybe because the killers prefer to shoot these, instead of driving them.

Public info on the numbers taken is very limited. In the Grindayvirlit 1584 - 2014 list, 01/11/2006, Klaksvik, 1 individual, seems to be the only non-stranding entry. Two harbour porpoises are mentioned in the grind tally of 2003, but without a date or location.

The white-beaked dolphin (Lagenorhyncus albirostris, Kjafthvitir springari in Faroese) is added here, even though the public record only lists one instance of white-beaked dolphins being driven and killed: a family of 44 individuals that was massacred in Hvalvik on 05/10/1992.

The extremely limited knowledge about dolphin species on the part of the killers and the lack of enforcement of the law and regulations by the Faroese government came to light during the massacres of Risso’s dolphins (Grampus griseus, Rissospringari in Faroese) in Klaksvík on 16 September 2009 and in Hvalba on 13 April 2010. The hunting of Risso’s dolphins is forbidden and they are easily distinguished from pilot whales or any of the smaller dolphin species — as any Cove Guardian can tell you.

In Klaksvik, after three animals were killed, the local authorities stopped the drive and ordered the rest of the group to be driven out again. 

There was no one around to save the 21 Risso’s that got driven into the bay of Hvalba. It was later claimed that the Risso’s were mistaken for bottlenose dolphins.

The reaction of the Faroese government: 

“After the two incidental catches in 2009 and 2010, the relevant district authorities have been advised by the Ministry of Fisheries that particular precaution should be taken to ensure that no further drive hunts of this species are initiated.”

Faroese law protected the orca (Orcinus orca, Bóghvituhvalur in Faroese) in 1986. 21 were butchered in Klaksvik on 06/18/1978. The long, agonizing suffering of these animals can be viewed on YouTube: "Faroe Islands" whale slaughter "The Grind" Orca.

That smaller dolphins would be anymore suitable as food than pilot whales is quickly dismissed by the IUCN:

“Like other North Atlantic marine mammals, White-beaked Dolphins and Atlantic white-sided Dolphins are contaminated by organochlorines, other anthropogenic compounds and heavy metals (Reeves et al. 1999)…”

As shown above, the dolphin hunt is not a tradition, the smaller dolphins are not by-catch of the pilot whale hunt, sustainability claims are unfounded and the meat is unsuitable as food.

There is no need to kill these animals and no justification.

It is just one more fallacy that, because there are other threats to cetaceans (pollution, fisheries, oil industry, climate change, etc), that would be an argument to allow the slaughter to continue.

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