Icelandic whalers, who have been hunting fin whales for the first time in three years, appear to have killed a rare, protected blue whale.
Images coming out of Iceland show the slaughter of the blue whale causing an uproar across the world.
Just before midnight on Saturday, 7th July, the Hvalur hf. fin whaling company landed its 22nd catch of the season at the whaling station at Hvalfjörður, Iceland. The whale caught the attention of Arne Feuerhahn, a German conservationist documenting the hunt as it was strikingly different in appearance to a fin whale.
Blue whale experts have studied the images of the whale landed last Sunday and conclude that it is a either a male blue whale or a blue/fin hybrid.
Blue whales are the largest creature on the planet. Reaching as much as 33m in length, they are listed as endangered, with a global population estimated at only 10,000 – 25,000 individuals. They have been protected from hunting since 1966 and are the main symbol of the mass slaughter that was industrial whaling in the 20th century.
Blue\fin whale hybrids are extremely rare as Icelandic authorities confirm that only five hybrids have been identified by researchers since 1986 around Iceland. Of those five, four have been killed by Icelandic whalers while the other has become famous with whale watchers off Husavik and was identified as a hybrid using non-lethal methods.
Vanessa Williams-Grey, policy manager at WDC, said: “This incident confirms that whaling is still a serious threat to endangered whales. This industry was out of control in the 20th century and it remains so today. What Kristján Loftsson is doing is nothing short of an environmental crime.”
Valgerður Árnadóttir, leader of the Icelandic Vegetarian Society and founder of the group Stop Whaling in Iceland, expressed her utmost concern, saying: “Not only are they killing endangered fin whales but they could also have killed a blue whale: a species protected from hunting for over half a century. The whole business of whaling in Iceland reeks of corruption and there aren’t even any buyers for the meat. In 2016, they had to throw millions of dollars’ worth of whale meat away because it was not even fit for animal consumption.”
Fin whales are currently still hunted in Iceland, Japan and Norway even though the International Whaling Commission (IWC) instituted a global moratorium on commercial whaling. Despite international outrage and the almost zero demand for whale meat, the slaughter of the mammal continues despite species numbers drastically falling.