Longfin pilot whales, like killer whales, are really dolphins. They are sociable cetaceans living in large pods which can communicate through high pitched sounds. Despite having an “unfavourable conservation status” by ASCOBANS, a regional agreement on the protection of small cetaceans (like pilot whales), they are also a staple food for many of our nordic cousins.
According to The World Council of Whalers “Many coastal communities rely on the cultural, nutritional and economic sustenance whaling provides”. Though a fair evaluation of the motives for these practices they also say “whaling people today are a far cry from the industrial whalers of the past century, who slaughtered entire whale populations”. Now these might not be entire populations, but as we’ve seen in the Faroe Islands they are almost certainly entire pods, groups, families of whales. Nor do I detect much of a difference between that and slaughter. You only need look as far as YouTube to be thoroughly sickened by the brutality of bashing and cutting open of whales which thrash wildly in the water flowing red with their own blood. Men with blood splattered faces wade in to swing a blunt hook into their blowhole to drag them ashore. Staple food or not these barbaric scenes are enough to bring your dinner back.
The fact that whaling was banned in 1986 to allow populations to recover tells us that it’s not commercially sustainable.
Iceland’s annual whale quota is 30, in Canada Inuit groups are limited to 1 whale every 2 years, Japan (somewhat suspiciously) operates whaling for “scientific” reasons after opposing the commercial ban and then withdrawing it after a threat from the US to slash their quota (according to the BBC), Indigenous Alaskan communities are allowed to catch up to 50 whales a year and Greenland and Russia catch less than 200. When it comes to the Faroe Islands (which would fit into Wales 14 and a half times) there’s a pile of bureaucracy to get to the bottom of why they catch almost 1000 whales a year. The long and short of it is that the Faroe Islands authorities monitor their whaling, not the IWC who imposed the ban nor Denmark of which they are a dependant, but they don’t monitor “small” cetaceans. This means dolphins, small whales and porpoises slip under the radar and as a result, nearly 1000 are killed yearly in these bays.
Having said this, the Faroe Islands dedicate an entire website to explain their practices; the ethics, sustainability and necessity of whaling. With no natural resources the 48,000 people who live there depend on this annual cull. If the practices are the safest and kindest they can be, and (as this has been happening for over 400 years) it appears are sustainable, what can we ask the Faroes to do?
If you know where you stand on The Faroes’ practices, Peta have a petition which you can access here: http://tinyurl.com/petawhale, as do Unleashed which you can access here: http://tinyurl.com/unleashedwhale