Blood Bath in the Faeroes
On the heels of a weekend which saw 120 pilot whales slain on the shores of the Faroes, Sea Shepherd global prepares for Operation Grindstop 2014
In the wake of continued barbaric killings of sentient, intelligent small whales and dolphins in the Faroe Islands, Sea Shepherd Global is preparing for the launch of Operation GrindStop 2014, the most wide-ranging, determined and longest-duration Faroe Islands campaign in Sea Shepherd history. The campaign was initiated and is being coordinated by Robert Read from Sea Shepherd UK.
Announcement of this new campaign follows the success of previous Sea Shepherd campaigns in the Faroes and is driven by the continuing atrocities against cetaceans committed by the Faroese this year alone in which 1,306 cetacean lives have been destroyed in just a 63-day period. Recently, a pod of 430 Atlantic White-Sided Dolphins were mercilessly slaughtered, and just this past Sunday in the second horrific bloody massacre at Hvalvik Bay this year, another 120 pilot whales lost their lives to Faroese knives.
Grind hunts to the Faroese are ‘traditional Viking fun’ and have been around since at least the year 1584 (when records started being kept of such hunts). However, the medieval, barbaric hunts are just as cruel today as when they first began. A Grind hunt starts when fishing boats or ferries offshore sight a pod of Pilot Whales or dolphins. Soon after, much like the slaughters in Taiji, Japan, the pod is driven into a bay with smaller fishing boats, private motor boats and even “non-traditional” jet skis. However, when confronting the Faroese Grind, there are 23 different Grind ‘coves’ around the many islands in the Faroese archipelago where a cetacean massacre could potentially take place, as opposed to just one cove in Taiji, Japan. This makes it all the more difficult to anticipate where the killings will occur or to get there in time to intervene and prevent the slaughter.
Once the pod is driven into a designated Grind bay, every last soul in the pod is forced onto the beach or pulled up with ropes into the shallows using a blunt hook (called a soknargul) in their blowhole. Faroese men plunge blades into the whales’ bodies until each cetacean’s spinal cord is severed, rarely on the first attempt and more often it takes several minutes for the whale or dolphin to die. The pursuit and beaching of these animals is extremely terrifying and stressful for them (in the UK, and also across Europe, the harassment of dolphins and whales is a crime in itself) and the killing looks just like what it actually is — a frenzied massacre of innocents. The Faroese citizens who take part and rush into the water to join in the slaughter do not spare any lives — mothers, babies, pregnant females — the entire cetacean family is killed and the waters of the Grind bays turn blood red for hours.
The 23 Grind bays are assigned to six whaling districts across the Faroe Islands, within which the meat and blubber is supposed to be (according to the Faroese Government) divided among local residents. However, as Sea Shepherd has previously exposed, some of the whale meat ends up in restaurants for consumption by tourists. In recent years, Faroese officials have warned certain individuals, such as women of child-bearing age and children, should not eat the meat, as it is laden with mercury, PCBs, dioxins and DDT derivatives and is therefore not safe for human consumption. As a result, after large Grinds have taken place, Sea Shepherd believes much of the meat and the carcasses are distributed to businesses for profit or discarded back into the ocean after the slaughter, further compounding the environmental and moral tragedy that is the ‘Grindadrap’ (which translates as ‘Pilot Whale Slaughter’).
“The Academy Award-winning documentary, The Cove, may have turned the international spotlight on the bloody carnage of dolphins brutally slain in Taiji by Japanese fishermen,” said Read. “But on the edge of Northwest Europe there are also regular drive hunts of whales and dolphins just as needlessly destructive, equally barbaric and perhaps even more merciless in our very own ‘Taiji of the North’ — The Faroe Islands,” Read explained.
Sea Shepherd Global’s campaign will utilize a variety of methods to combat the Faroese Grind including public education, land-based investigations, media relations, deterrent patrols, government relations, celebrity involvement, non-violent interventionist tactics and education of the local eco-tourism industry, among other tactics.
Of importance to note is the fact that Pilot Whales are classified as “strictly protected” under the Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats. By allowing the slaughter to continue in the Faeroes, Denmark is in violation of its obligations as a signatory to the Convention.
“2014 will mark three years since Sea Shepherd has made its presence known in Faroese waters,” Read said. “The last time we patrolled there, no whales or dolphins were killed on our watch. Our clients need us — it’s time to return,” he added.
Sea Shepherd’s History in the Faroe Islands:
- Sea Shepherd has been leading the opposition against the slaughter of whales and dolphins in the Faroe Islands since the summer of 1983 when David McColl from Glasgow, Scotland led a small crew to the Faroes and using inflatable boats managed to disrupt a Grind hunt. This was Sea Shepherd’s first intervention and the inflatable boats were heavily damaged by the whale killers.
- The Sea Shepherd II sailed there for the first ship based campaign in 1985, then sailing again in 1986 to document and obstruct the Faeroese pilot whale hunt. During that campaign five Sea Shepherd crewmembers were arrested on land and were held without charge, so the Sea Shepherd II refused to leave Faroese waters. The Faroese responded by attacking with bullets and tear gas so the crew of the Sea Shepherd II defended our ship with water cannon shots of chocolate and lemon pie-filling. The Sea Shepherd II escaped with documentation of Faroese whaling activities and the dramatic incidents were filmed and aired in a BBC produced award-winning documentary entitled ‘Black Harvest’. Additional footage was also used for the UK television documentary series ‘Defenders of Wildlife’ in an episode about Paul Watson and Sea Shepherd called ‘Ocean Warrior’ which aired in 1993.
- In 2000, Sea Shepherd’s ship Ocean Warrior sailed to the Faroe Islands and the Grind hunts were featured heavily as a consequence in the European media. Sea Shepherd brought economic pressure to bear against those companies still purchasing seafood from the Faroes and as a result more than 20,000 European retail outlets terminated their Faeroese fish contracts.
- During the summer of 2010, Sea Shepherd launched Operation GrindStop (after which the new campaign is named). Sea Shepherd’s Peter Hammarstedt went undercover to the Faroe Islands to gather evidence of the gruesome “Grind” hunt in Klaksvik. This was followed two weeks later by Sea Shepherd’s Undercover Operative Sofia Jonsson documenting and exposing the Grind at Leynar. A massive, secret underwater pilot whale graveyard was first discovered during this campaign. Sea Shepherd also sent the ‘Golfo Azzurro’ which completed a month of covert coastal surveillance patrols before being discovered, boarded and searched by Faroese police, then followed for the duration of the campaign by the Danish Navy (at great expense to Denmark’s taxpayers).
- In 2011, during ‘Operation Ferocious Isles,” as Sea Shepherd’s campaign was called, not a single whale or dolphin was killed on the beaches of the Faroe Islands while Sea Shepherd patrolled. Sea Shepherd’s crew aboard the fast interceptor vessel Brigitte Bardot sent divers to investigate the underwater graveyard where pilot whale carcasses are discarded over the coastal cliffs from Grind hunts held at Vestmanna and Leynar. Operation Ferocious Isles was chronicled in a five-episode series on Animal Planet called “Whale Wars: Viking Shores” (2012).
Operation Ferocious Isles
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