The Faroese government has set a catch limit of 500 dolphins this year for the territory’s annual whaling.
Located halfway between Iceland and Scotland in the Atlantic Ocean, the Faroes are an autonomous territory of the Kingdom of Denmark made up of 18 islands.
The annual whale slaughter, or grindadráp in Faroese, is a traditional practice that dates back to the first settlement of the islands by the Vikings in 800 CE.
Animal rights organizations have historically condemned culling, in which whales are killed by gashes to the neck and subsequent cuts to the spinal cord and carotid artery.
However, the Faroese government has previously defended the practice, saying the meat from the hunt provides “precious food” for local communities.
Whaling hunts take place to provide food and the catch is divided between participants and local communities, according to the Whales and Whaling in the Faroe Islands website. Whale meat and blubber are sometimes available for sale at docks and in supermarkets.
“The meat from each whale hunt provides a large amount of valuable food, which is distributed free of charge in the local communities where the whale hunts take place…the meat of the 1,400 dolphins captured on Sunday was also distributed to hunt participants and the local community,” Faroese government spokesman Páll Nolsøe told CNN after the hunt last year.
The government’s decision follows last year’s hunt, when a super pod of 1,428 Atlantic white-sided dolphins were rounded up by jet skis and speedboats at Skálabotnur beach on the island of Eysturoy and was eventually killed, according to marine conservation group Sea Shepherd.
At the time, the group denounced the killing as a “brutal and mishandled” massacre, and the biggest hunt in the territory’s history.
In a statement announcing its decision on Sunday, the government said of the September 2021 hunt: “Aspects of this capture were recognized to be unsatisfactory, in particular the unusually high number of dolphins killed.”
“This has made the procedures difficult to manage and is unlikely to be a sustainable level of harvest on a long-term annual basis,” the government added.
Lukas Erichsen, a Sea Shepherd representative, called the new quota “totally meaningless”.
Erichsen, who is part of Sea Shepherd’s whale advocacy campaign in the Faroe Islands, told CNN in an emailed statement that there did not appear to be a penalty for exceeding the quota. “Indeed, who would be prosecuted or fined if more than 500 people were killed in the next two years? There’s no doubt that if more than 500 people were killed in a year, officials would claim they didn’t realize the pod was so big until it was pushed into the shallows and dolphins are killed,” he said.
“This new ‘quota’ makes no sense for Dolphins in the long run and was only hastily announced as a thinly veiled attempt to fool both politicians and the press in the face of continuing outrage. sparked by the slaughter of dolphins in the Faroe Islands,” Erichsen added.
The government said in its latest statement that it aligns with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, a set of 17 commitments that address global challenges, including the climate crisis and the need to preserve and sustainably use oceans, seas and marine resources.
“Catches of small whales are an important supplement to the livelihoods of Faroese people, who have depended for centuries on the sustainable use of marine resources for their economy and local food security,” he said.
“The meat and blubber of each whale provides valuable low-carbon food, which is distributed free of charge to the various communities where captures take place,” the government added.
There are around 80,000 white-sided dolphins in the seas surrounding the Faroe Islands, according to the government. He added that an annual cull of just over 820 white-sided dolphins would therefore be “well within sustainable limits”.
However, he said he has asked the North Atlantic Marine Mammal Commission for more up-to-date information on how to sustainably harvest white-sided dolphins, after which he will assess the tentative annual limit of 500.
The government has also said it will review the method used to kill the dolphins to reduce the time it takes them to die.
After last year’s massacre, several whaling supporters condemned the hunt. Among them was Kristian Petersen, who told CNN at the time that “there were so many mistakes” including tracking down a large herd and prolonging the suffering of the dolphins by having too few people on the beaches. to kill them.
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