Each year in the Faroe Islands, around 850 small cetaceans, mainly pilot whales and Atlantic white-coast dolphins, are cruelly killed in dolphin hunts called "grindadrap" in the Faroe Islands. Sea Shepherd was the first militant group to intervene in the Faroes in 1983, with further direct action campaigns in 1985, 1986, 2000, 2011, 2014 and 2015. Then, due to vessel restrictions imposed on Sea Shepherd as well as the new legislation in force in the Islands, preventing the interventions of any militant against the massacre - Sea Shepherd UK has decided to launch the operation "Bloody Fjords", supported by the reinforcement of a ground team sent to the islands every year since 2016 to investigate, document and expose the barbarian hunts to the world. The goal is also to put pressure on the Faroe Islands to finally put an end to the "grindadrap".
In 2020, our ground crew patrolled for over 2 months when COVID-19 travel restrictions were finally lifted. In recent years, Operation Bloody Fjords has generated hundreds of international news articles online and in print, as well as radio and television broadcasts. However, Danish media rarely reported on dolphin killings around the Faroe Islands. Sea Shepherd UK and Sea Shepherd Scandinavia therefore had to invite respected and recognized Danish activists to join the campaign and we were very happy to have nine Danish activists last year in the Faroe Islands working alongside our British volunteers.
There were no hunts while our crews patrolled in August and September (usually the peak months for massacres). However, three hunts have occurred during COVID lockdowns and physical distance restrictions in the Faroes. Pilot whales were killed during a tagging exercise and two small groups of northern beaked whales were savagely killed after stranding. The total cetaceans killed in 2020 were 539 pilot whales, 35 Atlantic white-rimmed dolphins and 11 northern beaked whales. The events unfolded as follows:
- 18 pilot whales during a scientific marking exercise characterized by a total lack of coordination on June 6 in Bour.
- 252 long-fin pilot whales and 35 Atlantic white dolphins killed in a “grindadrap” hunt on July 15 in Hvalba.
- 193 pilot whales killed in a hunt on July 30 in Sandur.
- 6 Northern Beaked Whales were killed on August 17 in Sandvik after being disoriented and stranded.
- 5 northern beaked whales were killed after stranding. The massacre was filmed and broadcast live by our crew on August 19 in Hvalba.
- 66 pilot whales were killed in an October 16 hunt in Hvalvik
Sea Shepherd's determination to put an end to the “grindadrap” continues unabated. “Operation Bloody Fjords” is in its 6th year and we are in our 13th campaign season on the Faroe Islands with more Danish and Scandinavian crews than ever before.
In 2020 (thanks in particular to our Danish team) we started to see that we have new signs of support in the Faroe Islands, not only against the 'grindadrap' but also for other Sea Shepherd campaigns across the world. This year our volunteer team will do everything possible to engage and encourage more Faroe Islands citizens to speak out against the hunts, support Sea Shepherd campaigns around the world and consider establishing (hopefully in the future near) a chapter of the "Sea Shepherd Faroe Islands".
Sea Shepherd is also continuing our international pressure campaign on the Faroe Islands to end the pilot whale and dolphin hunts. We call on both compassionate citizens and businesses to boycott, in particular, seafood from the Islands, for tourists to choose holiday destinations in which whales and dolphins are cared for, and for them. companies operating the cruise ships to reconsider any future visits to the islands until the grindadráp hunts are abolished forever.
Grindadrap at Hvalvik of Atlantic White Sided Dolphins on 11th September 2018 (Photo - Sea Shepherd UK)
The grindadrap (or "grind" as the hunts are commonly referred to) can occur at any time in any of the 26 bays around the islands which have been designated as the locations of the killings. Most hunts occur between June and September. The grindadrap has no quota and the Faroes allow hunts when a group is spotted near the coast. The hunts are ruthless, every individual in the group killed, including pregnant females, cubs and weaned young. Grindadrap would be totally illegal under European Union law, as in the EU (including the Kingdom of Denmark) it is illegal to kill, harass or stress cetaceans. Although the Kingdom of Denmark is part of the European Community, the Faroe Islands are not. However, they are located in Europe and as such, they still benefit from subsidies of around 100 million US dollars from Denmark and what is more, they have concluded free trade agreements with the EU.
Pilot whale meat which is contaminated with DDT, PCBs and heavy metal industrial pollutants, including mercury - not only poisons Faroes, but tourists as well. Hunts are sanctioned by the government of the Islands but defended by the Kingdom of Denmark (via the Danish navy, police and court systems). Indeed, Sea Shepherd can testify as supporting evidence that Royal Danish Navy ships have been photographed on several occasions assisting the ships of Faroe Islands residents to hunt whales off the Faroese coast. To top it off, this activity continues as a national sport poorly justified by arguments of sustainability, history and culture.
The Faroe Islands still perpetuate to this day a barbaric and cruel practice which consists of cutting with a knife the spinal cord of hundreds of dolphins, after having forced them to run aground on one of the bays of the islands . This practice dating back nearly 1500 years, which was intended to provide a food resource for the inhabitants of Faroese, is no longer relevant today. This unnecessary slaughter continues in a society with a per capita GDP of $ 52,000. The consumption of dolphin meat also has a very negative impact on health. According to the Faroese medical body, the levels of mercury, pesticides and lead contained in the flesh of these marine mammals are extremely dangerous for human health .
Thanks to a highly profitable fishing industry, the Faroe Islands economy flourished, posting a GDP per capita comparable to other wealthy Scandinavian countries. The current unemployment rate is only 1.7% with almost zero poverty recorded in the Faroes.
“The grindadráp is a barbaric relic from a bygone era. A useless hunt for hundreds of pilot whales and dolphins which should have ended a century ago and which is not necessary to feed anyone on the islands ”
Robert Read, Head of Sea Shepherd UK Operations.
Here is an extract from the letter that was sent by Sea Shepherd to the French government asking France to file a complaint with the International Court of Justice in The Hague, against the Kingdom of Denmark, for violation of the laws of the European community j
" Denmark being one of the member countries of the European Union, it must submit to the position of the European Community aimed at" protecting cetaceans (whales, dolphins, etc.) against hunting, capture or detention ”by condemning the grindadrap (slaughter of dolphins in the Faroe Islands). It is therefore the responsibility of France to ensure that the “proposal for a decision of the European Council (dated August 25, 2011) is respected. Under Article 4 (3) of the Treaty on European Union , this same proposal declares that “ Member States have a duty of loyal cooperation and are not authorized to contract, outside the framework of the legislation of the European Union. EU, obligations liable to infringe Union rules or modify their scope ”.
If we cannot force the Faroe Islands to respect the recommendations of the European Union, which are not part of the Community, this agreement obliges Denmark not to violate these legal agreements. Not only is Denmark breaking European law by ensuring the smooth running of the massacres off the Faroese coast, but it is also violating several other agreements and conventions that it has ratified through the European Union . Among these are:
- The ASCOBANS agreement on the conservation of small cetaceans in the Baltic Sea, the North-East Atlantic and the Irish and North Seas.
- The Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals signed in 1979 to protect the migratory species (or Bonn Convention)
- The Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats signed on September 19, 1979 in Bern .
Currently listed in Appendix II of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species, the pilot whale (Globicephala melas) and pilot whale (Globicephalamacrorhynchus) are among the migratory species with an unfavorable conservation status, requiring the conclusion of 'international agreements to ensure their conservation. Pilot whales are on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, which also believes that further research is needed to determine the impact of potential threats to the species. It is therefore urgent to work in favor of the protection of pilot whales, marine mammals protected on the territory of the European Union.
In the name of respect for international law, current European legislation and the conservation of marine ecosystems, we ask you to file a complaint against the Kingdom of Denmark for violation of the laws of the European Community and to encourage your European counterparts sitting in the Council of the European Union to support France in this process. "