More whale and dolphin killings in the Faroes

Sadly, Faroese whalers have conducted three whale kills in the past month. On May 21st, 83 pilot whales were killed at Bøur on the island of Vagar near the airport. On June 16th, 164 pilot whales whales and 8 whitesided dolphins were killed near the Faroese capital of Thorshavn and just a couple of days ago, on Monday 26th June, a further 150 pilot whales were slaughtered at Hvalvík. Shockingly, a pod of 15 white-sided dolphins was also driven ashore and killed that day. dolphins killed in Faroes  Jun 2017

This week’s killings makes a total of 397 pilot whales and 23 dolphins slaughtered this year so far. In 2016, there were five whale drives and a total of 295 pilot whales killed.

An average of 800 pilot whales are killed each year with over 5,000 pilot whales, 680 dolphins and 18 bottlenose whales killed since 2008 when Faroese health leaders warned that toxic pollutants, like mercury and PCBs, that concentrate in the whales’ meat and blubber make it no longer safe to eat.

These toxic pollutants are known to impact on the nervous, immune and reproductive systems and are linked to a high incidence of health problems in the Faroese population effecting cognitive development and function, foetal development, Parkinson’s disease as well as arteriosclerosis, hypertension (high blood pressure) and type2 diabetes.

Campaign Whale was led to believe that dolphin hunting was banned after 420 dolphins were killed at Hvalba with small knives in a shockingly cruel hunt in 2013. The return to the killing of dolphins this year is very sad news indeed.

New whaling regulations mean that whales are driven by boats to killing bays where blunt ended steel gaffs are used to drag the whales into the shallows. There a spear is driven deep into the back of the neck to sever the spinal chord and the major arteries to the brain.  3044156712_91e93ae68e_oHowever, if this fails, and reports suggest the new whaling spears do so quite often, then a small whaling knife can also be used to cut down to the arteries, semi- decapitating the fully conscious animal in the process. Entire family groups are killed in front of each other, including mothers and calves, none are spared.

Campaign Whale is working  with  Faroese colleagues to end whaling and promote whale-watching instead.  Unfortunately, tradition dies hard, but sooner or later the Faroese will have to accept that killing large numbers of these intelligent, social animals to produce toxic meat and blubber they shouldn’t eat, simply makes no sense.

You can help our campaign by donating to our special campaign fund or buying our special merchandise. All proceeds go to our work in the Faroes.  Further details can be found here. Thank you!

 

Faroese whale hunt begins despite health warnings

22nd May 2017

84 long-finned pilot whales were driven ashore and slaughtered last weekend in the first whale hunt of the year in the Faroe Islands. The whales were killed on the island of Vagar, close to the Faroe Island’s airport. Last year, a total of 295 whales were killed in five whale hunts or ‘grinds’ as they are known.

3044156712_91e93ae68e_oAn average of 800 pilot whales or more are killed each year in the Faroes, a group of islands situated midway between Scotland and Iceland. The meat from the whales is distributed for human consumption despite repeated warnings that it is dangerously contaminated with toxic pollutants like mercury and PCBs (Polychlorinated Biphenyls).

In 2008, health leaders urged the Faroese to stop eating whale meat and blubber. In 2012,  further health studies showed these toxins, which attack the nervous, immune and reproductive systems, are having a serious impact on the health of the Faroese population.

PCBs were manufactured from the 1920s and banned in the 1980s because of their wide-ranging impact on human and animal health, from links to cancer, to suppressing the immune system and causing reproductive problems. A staggering 2 million tons of PCBs were manufactured around the world and most of this poison is slowly leaking from landfill sites into rivers, estuaries and eventually into the sea. These, and other toxic chemicals like mercury, are known to concentrate in top marine predators, including pilot whales, orcas and other dolphin species.

In January 2016, a scientific report highlighted the threat posed by these pollutants in the seas around Western Europe. The researchers found PCBs in the bodies of over 1,000 dolphins and orcas, examined over 20 years, at levels greatly exceeding those known to cause severe toxic effects.

Campaign Whale is working with Faroese people in the Faroes to end whaling. Director Andy Ottaway said “Sooner or later the Faroese must accept the fact that killing and eating pilot whales belongs in the past, not least because the poisons in the whales are also a threat to the people eating them”

Faroes’ health leader warns of whale meat danger

Dr Pal Weihe, Chief Physician at the Department of Occupational Medicine and Public Health in the Faroe Islands, has just co-authored an alarming new study on the threat to human health caused by eating whale meat and blubber.

The article entitled, ‘Health effects associated with measured levels of contaminants in the Arctic’, was published in the International Journal of Circumpolar Health on 13th December 2016. It reveals a catalogue of dangerous health problems linked with the toxic pollutants regularly consumed by people in the High Arctic and the Faroe Islands through eating marine mammals such as seals whales and dolphins. The full article can be read here

The new study reveals the high levels of toxic pollutants, such as mercury and PCBs
(polychlorinated biphenyls) that concentrate in marine mammals that are hunted for meat and blubber in the Faroe Islands and by native peoples in remote parts of Canada and Siberia.

Pilot whales – poisonous to men, women and children

Campaign Whale has been working with Faroese colleagues to end the ‘grind’ or pilot whale hunt as it is called in the Faroe Islands, situated midway between Scotland and Iceland. Dr.Weihe has studied the health impacts of eating pilot whale meat in over two thousand Faroese women and their children. His research concludes that the toxic contaminants, which concentrate in the whales’ meat and blubber, increase the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease, hypertension, arteriosclerosis, diabetes and certain cancers. They can also harm cognitive development in children with permanent damage seen in later life. These contaminants are also linked with lower testosterone levels in men,  along with a low sperm count.pilot whale dinner compressed

On the harm to brain development Dr Weihe states ‘studies in the Faroe Islands have demonstrated that children exposed to MeHg (methyl-mercury) in utero (pregnancy) exhibit decreased motor function, attention span, verbal abilities, memory, and other mental functions. Follow-up of these children up to the age of 22 years indicates that these deficits, together with deficits in general mental ability, appear to be permanent.’

In 2011 the Faroese government issued health advice stating that adults should eat no more than one meal of pilot whale meat and blubber a month and that women wanting babies, and children, should avoid it altogether. However, Dr. Weihe has repeatedly contradicted this advice,  warning that pilot whale meat and blubber should not be eaten at all. Dr. Weihe made his feelings clear when he said “pollution of the oceans will one day end up on the dinner table in some communities, and our children are paying the price.”

Sadly, hundreds of pilot whales are still driven ashore and slaughtered in the Faroes each year. The whalers drive entire whale pods ashore and use blunt-ended metal hooks, inserted into the whales’ blowholes, to drag the whales into the shallows and on to the beach where they are killed with lances or knives.

Whaling on the wane?

grind compressedThere is hope that the tide is turning.  The Faroese government has banned the killing of dolphins and introduced measures to improve killing methods. Yet despite the frightening health warnings, the long stubborn tradition of pilot whaling continues. In July and August this year (2016) a total of 245 pilot whales were killed at Hvannasund, a small village in the far north of the Faroe Islands, that has a population of just 270 people.  However, this number represents a quarter of the annual average kill of over 800 whales, and these hunts were openly criticised for being poorly conducted, and for inflicting considerable suffering on the whales – signs, perhaps, that attitudes are changing.

Campaign Whale believes that toxic pollution is a serious threat both to whales and the people that eat them. We are working closely with colleagues within the Faroes to end whaling as soon as possible.

 

 

New whaling regulations introduced in the Faroes

The Faroese Government is introducing new whaling regulations in May intended to improve killing methods in the pilot whale hunt. Faroese animal welfare legislation, which also applies to whaling, stipulates that animals are killed as quickly and with as little suffering as possible. However, pilot whaling has long attracted international condemnation for the extreme cruelty inflicted upon these sentient, highly social animals during the drive and killing process.

Entire family groups of pilot whales, often numbering many dozens of animals, are driven ashore and slaughtered in shallow bays especially authorised for this purpose. The sharp hook often driven many times into a whale to drag it ashore, has been replaced by a round-headed implement that is inserted into the blowhole to secure the whales for slaughter. From 1st May 2015, the recently developed ‘spinal lance’ will replace the traditional whaling knife, and be used to sever the spinal cord and major blood supply to the brain, intended to inflict rapid loss of consciousness and death. From May 1st only people that have attended a special course on the new regulations and killing methods will be licenced to kill whales.Andy with spinal lance

Faroes whaling

Every year, an average of 800 pilot whales are driven ashore and slaughtered for their meat and blubber in the Faroe Islands which are situated roughly midway between Scotland and Iceland. The hunt has taken place for centuries and is deeply ingrained in the Faroese culture. However, while once a valuable source of food for these remote islands, today there is no longer any vital nutritional need to hunt the whales. In fact, since 2008, Faroese Health leaders have warned that the whales’ meat and blubber is now so dangerously contaminated with mercury, PCB’s and other industrial poisons that it should not be eaten at all! There is already a high incidence of diseases amongst the Faroese population, including children, linked to ingestion of these toxic pollutants.

While the Faroese claim the whale hunt or ‘grind’ is sustainable, the growing impact of these pollutants on the whales is barely considered, even though they are already under increasing threat from climate change, commercial over-fishing of prey species, entanglement in fishing gears, ship strikes, increasing levels of harmful ocean noise, lethal military sonar and other disturbance. The combined impact of all these threats on the whales is simply unknown, but potentially catastrophic.

Concerns remain

While appreciating the intent behind the new whaling regulations is to improve certain aspects of the killing process, Campaign Whale is concerned that Faroese whaling remains inherently cruel. We believe that the driving and then killing of entire family groups with young in front of one another must inflict the most unimaginable fear and distress on these highly intelligent, sentient and socially-bonded animals. Unfortunately, we cannot accept that the blow-hole hook is an adequately humane alternative to the sharp hook or that the spinal lance can be used in a consistently accurate and efficient manner to inflict rapid loss of consciousness and death in the often chaotic circumstances of a hunt.grind compressed

For these reasons, Campaign Whale continues to oppose Faroese whaling as it remains inherently cruel, unnecessary and poses an unacceptable threat to the whales and the people that eat them. We we will continue to work from within and outside the Faroe Islands to end whaling as soon as possible.

Campaign Whale at The International Whaling Commission meeting

Campaign Whale is at the annual meeting of the IWC in Slovenia. Our priorities for this meeting are to ensure the ongoing  ban on commercial whaling is maintained; defiant whaling operations by Iceland, Japan and Norway are condemned and urgent action is agreed to save critically endangered populations and species.  Daily updates from the IWC meeting will appear here:

Day four: Thursday 18th September

The final day of this IWC promised to be a feisty affair, not least because of a resolution tabled by New Zealand regarding so-called ‘scientific’ whaling. Earlier this year, the International Court of Justice passed a ruling that Japan’s long-term whaling in the Antarctic, declared a Whale Sanctuary by the IWC, was not actually ‘scientific’ and therefore illegal. Only legitimate scientific research is exempt from the IWCs whaling ban. This landmark case, brought by Australia and supported by New Zealand, prompted Japan to announce the suspension of its whaling programme in the region, prompting much premature celebration. However, Japan’s Prime Minister has already publically pledged to resume whaling in the Southern Ocean in 2015.

Conservation work strengthened

A useful resolution was passed calling for the IWC’s Scientific Committee to work with the Conservation Committee in assessing the status, identifying the threats to and recommending mitigation measures for populations of whales, including small cetaceans. Not surprisingly, the whalers were very unhappy with this proposal, but after the usual reservations were expressed about the IWC having no authority to work on small cetacean issues, the proposal passed by consensus. It will have far-reaching consequences for the IWC. In particular, by directing the work of the Committee more toward conservation efforts, rather than simply the reintroduction of whaling.

Small whales receive welcome support

Campaign Whale has been working hard to raise support for conservation work to help save endangered populations and species of small cetaceans (smaller whales, dolphins and porpoises). Part of this strategy has been to raise funds from other organisations and so encourage governments to donate themselves. This meeting we were able to raise a further £18,000 pounds for the IWC’s Voluntary Fund for Small Cetacean Conservation. With the UK, Italy and the Netherlands donating over £100,000 more. This was a record-breaking meeting for donations to the Fund. Campaign Whale also addressed the meeting, making an impassioned appeal to governments to help the critically endangered vaquita porpoise and Maui dolphins. We are delighted that this was well received and governments are finally rallying round to help despite the efforts of the whalers to block any such work. A copy of our statement to the meeting is reproduced below this report. Antarctica trip 772 cropped and compressed

Scientific whaling made harder

Then came that scientific whaling resolution reflecting the ICJ ruling against Japan’s ‘scientific’ whaling this year. Despite attempts to water it down, it was finally put to a vote and was passed by a large majority with Japan and its allied voting against. It instructs the Scientific Committee to review current and future scientific proposals in terms of whether the number of whales killed can be justified; the results will aid conservation or management objectives, and whether the results could be obtained by non-lethal means. With thousands of whales slaughtered during the whaling ban under spurious research programmes, this welcome resolution should make it harder, though sadly not impossible, for member states to cynically use research to undermine the whaling ban in future. Unfortunately, but not unexpectedly, Japan then announced that the ICJ ruling simply applied to its current programme which had been suspended as a result. However, they said that a new research whaling plan will begin in Antarctica for 2015!

New Whale Sanctuary defeated

Once again, a proposal to create a whale Sanctuary in the South Atlantic was defeated. The conservationist’s success in establishing the Antarctic Southern Ocean Sanctuary back in 1994 prompted Japan to go on a successful recruitment drive for new pro-whaling allies. This has prevented many further conservation initiatives, including new whale sanctuaries, from succeeding. Sadly, the whaler’s now have a blocking vote to prevent the three-quarter majority vote that is needed to create them.minkesondeck

New coastal whaling plan rejected

Finally, Japan submitted an awkward proposal this year for a quota of just 17 minke whales to relieve the ‘hardship’ inflicted upon its coastal communities by the IWC whaling ban. This ‘small- type coastal whaling’ proposal is an attempt to create a new category of whaling that would be exempt from the commercial whaling ban. However, Japan’s coastal communities have been involved in Japan’s scientific whaling in the north-Pacific for many years, killing hundreds of whales for so-called ‘research’ every year. Additionally, Japan’s whaling fleet has also brought back hundreds of minke whales killed from Antarctica each year, while coastal communities
target up to 20,000 small whales, dolphins and porpoises every year in cruel hunts. Thankfully, Japan’s application was rejected again as it has been many times before. It is vital that the whalers do not succeed in their persistent attempts to undermine the whaling ban by inventing new categories of ‘cultural’ or ‘small-type’ whaling.

And finally…..

And so IWC65 came to a close. Overall, there was much to celebrate that will benefit whales large and small in the coming years, but the battle to save the whales and switch the IWC into a modern convention for the protection of all whales goes on. Campaign Whale is only able to fight for the whales thanks to the generous support of its supporters. For this we are very grateful and our determination to save critically endangered populations and species; end whaling and eliminate the growing environmental threats to all whales and their habitats, remains undiminished. With your continued support there is so much more we can do to fight for a future graced by these wonderful animals. 090067

 
Statement on further NGO contributions to the Voluntary Fund for Small Cetacean Conservation Research at IWC 65

Madam Chair, firstly I would like to take this opportunity to thank the government and people of Slovenia for the warm welcome to their beautiful country.

Small cetaceans represent the vast majority of whale species. They face increasing threats to their survival from toxic pollution and entanglement in fishing gear,
to large scale commercial and subsistence hunting. Sadly, these small whales include some of the most critically endangered species left on Earth, with some populations, and even entire species, reduced to a pitiful number of animals barely clinging to existence.

There were many strong interventions on the issue of small cetacean conservation in plenary yesterday, including repeated concerns expressed by the IWC’s Scientific Committee and the IUCN, recommending urgent action to save the vaquita and Maui’s dolphin and other threatened small cetaceans.

We have tragically lost the Baiji, and with only 55 Maui dolphins and perhaps just 100 vaquita left alive in the world today, can there be any greater priority for the IWC than to do everything in its collective power to help save these critically endangered species from being lost forever?

At IWC 64 in Panama in 2012, ten NGOs were able to contribute a further £10,300 pounds to the Voluntary Fund for Small Cetaceans. We would like to take this opportunity to thank those contracting governments that have made such generous contributions to the Fund. Now, 17 organisations are pleased to announce a further contribution of £16,000 pounds to the Voluntary Fund for Small Cetaceans.

Finally, I would like to remind all contracting governments that we are entrusted by future generations that will never forgive us if we fail to stop other cetaceans, large or small, from following the wonderful Baiji into oblivion.

Thank You Madam Chair

Day three: Wednesday 17th September

Today began well with Italy, speaking on behalf of the European Union States, announcing the 35 nation demarche (protest) delivered to Iceland over its ongoing commercial whaling and trade in whale meat from minke and fin whales in defiance  of the IWC’s whaling ban. Whaling 2009compressed

This was followed by Japan making its usual presentation calling for action against the Sea Shepherd organisation for disrupting its (now declared illegal by the International Court of Justice) whaling operations in the Antarctic. The Mayor of the coastal whaling town of Taiji, where cruel dolphin hunting was exposed in the Oscar-winning film the ‘The Cove’ then spoke complaining his town was being ‘sabotaged’ by anti whaling activists!

Following this, a presentation highlighted the threat posed to the Vaquita (a small porpoise that lives in the Gulf of California) with a strong call to urgent action from the Scientific Committee and IUCN. An NGO statement signed by 48 organizations, including Campaign Whale, was read out to the meeting calling on the IWC to do everything possible to help save the vaquita that has been reduced to just 100 animals.

Japan then began an interesting attempt to redefine the meaning of the IWC moratorium (the moratorium is a zero catch limit for all commercial whaling) for their coastal whalers. They suggested that quotas could be set for commercial whaling provided there are enough whales to do so! This of course is nonsense. The ban on commercial whaling can only be lifted by a three-quarter majority vote of the Commission and applies to all commercial whaling operations whatever the estimated size of the whale stock in question.

Following the first day’s disappointing vote in favour of Greenland’s huge subsistence whaling quota, some governments challenged whether Greenland’s whaling in the preceding two years without an agreed quota from the IWC was a breach of the Convention’s rules. However, astonishingly, the Chair said Greenland was entitled to catch whales without a permit because the IWC had not passed a motion forbidding them to do so! This is simply not true, and the fall-out from Monday’s  controversial vote will continue to provoke angry repercussions.

Chile then tabled a proposal to improve the rights of NGOs attending IWC meetings and this was passed.

Campaign Whale has worked hard for many years to raise awareness and help for small cetaceans (small whales, dolphins and porpoises) which are killed in the hundreds of thousands each year and receive little or no protection. This is because  the pro-whaling countries, for obvious reasons, refuse to accept the IWC has the authority to manage these species. These small whales are under increasing threats, including from toxic pollution and entanglement in fishing gear, but are also hunted in huge numbers around the world. For example, Japan targets up to 20,000 dolphins and porpoises every year and up to a 1,000 pilot whales and dolphins or more are hunted in the Faroe Islands. Many thousands more are killed for food and fish bait in South America, Africa and Asia.

Today the Scientific Committee repeated its concerns and recommendations concerning the urgency of measures needed to save New Zealand’s Maui dolphin, which has been reduced to just 55 animals, and Mexico’s little vaquita porpoise, which has less than 100 animals left. Many countries voiced their extreme concern about the plight of the vaquita and Maui dolphins.  They also reiterated their view that the IWC has the authority and expertise to work on small cetacean conservation issues. vaquitas on beach

Campaign Whale has been pressing for the IWC to initiate and support conservation management plans for critically endangered and threatened populations of whales and dolphins. We are delighted that despite the endless resistance of the whaling nations and their allies, the overwhelming majority of governments now want the IWC to work on these issues.

Just six years ago, the Chinese river dolphin or Baiji was declared extinct. The first cetacean species to be driven to extinction by human beings. Other small cetacean populations are in dire trouble and could be lost forever within the very near future. With the financial support and expertise of the IWC and its member governments, perhaps there is still hope, however late, for these wonderful animals after all.

More news, from the fourth and final day of the IWC to follow

Day Two: Tuesday 16th September 2014

In the morning of the IWC meeting here in Slovenia, Monaco tabled a resolution proposing international cooperation aimed at increasing conservation efforts for highly migratory species. The fact is, that the IWC only manages 17 of over ninety species of whales, dolphins and porpoises. During the 28 years that the commercial whaling ban has been in place over 40,000 great whales have been slaughtered by defiant whalers. Unsurprisingly, the pro-whaling minority rallied against the proposal, but fortunately it passed with a majority of over two to one in favour. This resolution is a further positive step in evolving the IWC from an old whaler’s club to a modern convention for the conservation of all whales.

The politics of extinction : Dolphins and porpoises on the brink

The Monaco resolution reflects our concern that many hundreds of thousands of so-called small cetaceans (small whales, dolphins and porpoises) have been cruelly hunted during the IWC  ban on commercial whaling. For example, Japan alone kills up to 20,000 dolphins and porpoises each year. In Peru untold numbers of dolphins are killed for food and fish bait and the same is true in other South American, Asian and African countries. Closer to home, up to 1,000 pilot whales are driven ashore and slaughtered in the Faroe Islands. These small whales, dolphins and porpoises receive no protection and many populations, even species are being driven to extinction. Maui -compressed + cropped

The Maui dolphin, found off the west coast of North Island in New Zealand, is a subspecies of Hector’s dolphin. This is the world’s rarest marine dolphin with only 55 left in the wild and nothing less than total protection from all threats can save it. Incredibly, the New Zealand Government refuses to ban gillnet fishing in the Maui’s habitat which almost certainly condemns this wonderful little dolphin.

The vaquita, a small porpoise found only in the upper Gulf of California in Mexico, is one of the world’s most endangered mammals. In the past three years, half of the remaining vaquita population has been killed in fishing nets, many of them set illegally to capture an endangered species of fish. Today, fewer than 100 vaquitas are left, with only a quarter of these females of reproductive age. The species will soon be extinct unless drastic steps are taken immediately.

The Government of Mexico has created a protected area for the Vaquita where all commercial fishing, including with gillnets, has been banned, and is encouraging fishermen to switch to fishing gear that does not threaten the vaquita. Over the past five years, the Government has invested more than $30 million (U.S.) in these efforts. However, while scientists have repeatedly warned for almost twenty years that eliminating gillnets is the only way to save the vaquita, a new, illegal fishery for totoaba, a giant fish that can reach 2m in length and 100kg in weight, is threatening to eliminate this wonderful little porpoise. This endangered fish, prized for its swim bladder, is exported to China where it is believed to have medicinal properties. Thousands of swim bladders are dried and smuggled out of Mexico, often through the United States. The remainder of the fish is left to rot on the beach. Fishermen receive up to $8,500 for each kilogram of totoaba swim bladder, equivalent to half a year’s income from legal fishing activities. At a meeting in July 2014, an international recovery team advising the Government of Mexico called on the Government to stop illegal fishing for totoaba and for the United States and China to help Mexico eliminate the illegal trade in totoaba products.

Outrageously, the whalers continue to block all efforts to address the relentless slaughter of small cetaceans, or even to help those populations and species, like the Vaquita and Maui dolphin that are perilously close to extinction. It is up to the vast majority of governments at the IWC to rise above the petty and increasingly nasty politics over whaling and to do everything possible to help save the Maui dolphin and vaquita before it is too late. Only a few years ago, the Yangtze River dolphin, or Baiji, was declared extinct. Unless we act now, the Maui dolphin and vaquita will quickly follow.

Hidden cruelty

On a depressing note, attempts to agree measures to improve animal welfare aspects of whaling have been blocked again by the whalers who refuse to provide information on the times to death inflicted upon harpooned whales. Iceland, Norway and Japan defend this outrageous behaviour by arguing that such information has been used to at tack their whaling operations. What we do know, is that there is no humane way to kill a whale and even the exploding harpoon condemns many animals to an agonising death. Many harpooned whales are repeatedly shot with rifles to finish them off and death can take anything from several minutes to over an hour. Worse still, with no agreed reliable method of confirming a whale is actually dead, it is possible that many animals are paralysed by the harpoon strike and are actually butchered alive. the-yushin-maru-catcher-ship-o

Also in subsistence hunting whales suffer terribly. Information provided by these hunts over the past two hunting seasons (between the IWC’s biennial meetings) has revealed many whales are struck but lost, meaning they face a long and lingering death from terrible injuries. Those whales that are actually captured may be harpooned and shot many times before they succumb to their wounds.
The fact that the whalers refuse to resolve the inherent cruelty inflicted upon advanced mammals that clearly have a great capacity to suffer, is a major argument why whaling should remain banned and the defiant whalers sanctioned until they halt their whaling operations.

However, many countries hunt huge numbers of small whales, dolphins and porpoises that they argue are exempted from the IWC whaling ban. In Japan, thousands of dolphins are cruelly slaughtered with knives and spears while closer to home, in the Faroe Islands, hundreds of pilot whales and even dolphins are driven ashore , struck with steel hooks and dragged ashore to be killed with knives or spears. The fear and suffering inflicted upon these whales simply defies belief.

The north Atlantic is now the epicentre of global whaling, by Iceland, Norway, Greenland and the Faroes. With up to 2,000 whales and perhaps as many more smaller whales and dolphins being cruelly slaughtered every year, it is time that the UK and EU made a determined stand and effective stand for the whales. All these countries export seafood to the UK, US and Europe where public opinion is overwhelmingly against whaling. Even where strictly controlled hunting for food by remote indigenous communities is accepted, the small whales, dolphins and seals targeted by hunters are contaminated by toxic pollutants that seriously threaten the health of
the animals and the people that eat the meat and blubber.

More news, from day three of the IWC, to follow

 

Day one: Monday 15th September

IWC SloveniaThe opening day of IWC 65 was not a good one for anyone that cares about whales. The European Union, including the UK, have just supported proposals that allow Greenland’s whalers to kill 828 whales over the next four years. This includes 176 minke whales each year, but also 19 endangered fin, 10 humpbacks and 2 bowhead whales each year.

This highly contentious proposal awards Greenland an increased subsistence quota (non-commercial quotas awarded to indigenous communities) of whales to provide food after it was blocked in 2012. This was because of increasing concerns that quota demands were rising while the hunt was becoming more commercialised with increasing sales of whale meat, including to tourists!

Additionally, the Greenlanders also kill thousands of small whales (and seals) that are not included in the quota calculations in terms of the meat tonnage these animals provide.

By supporting this proposal, the UK and EU have undermined efforts to prevent a new category of ‘cultural’ commercial whaling that will undermine the commercial whaling ban and give other whaling nations hope that their coastal whaling plans will eventually be accepted. The Japanese are tabling a proposal for coastal whaling later today. They believe their whaling should be accepted as Greenland’s whaling has been.

UK Defra Minister George Eustice addressed today’s meeting this afternoon, but unfortunately made no mention of Norway or Iceland’s whaling, let alone the horrific slaughter of pilot whales and dolphins in the Faroe Islands as the UK government has been asked to do. The increased Greenland quota pushes whale slaughter in the north Atlantic still higher…potentially over 2,500 whales each year, not including the thousands of small whales, dolphins and porpoises also killed by Greenland’s hunters each year.

Campaign Whale has called on the UK and EU to make a stand for the whales, not least beacause most defiant whaling is now taking place in the north-east Atlantic, on Britain and the EU’s doorstep where public opposition to the cruel slaughter of whales is strongest. The fishing and whaling industries in the whaling countries are closely linked and the UK and Europe are a vital market for their seafood exports. It’s time words were matched by tough sanctions against individuals, vessels and companies involved in whaling. This could end whaling almost overnight.

Ironically, also today, the EU led an international demarche against whaling by Iceland. The EU, its 28 Member States and the governments of the United States, Australia, Brazil, Israel, New Zealand, Mexico and Monaco, today declared their opposition to the fact that the Icelandic government still permits commercial whaling, in particular, the hunting of threatened fin whales and the subsequent trading of fin whale products with Japan. In stark contrast, Norway has killed over 700 minke whales this year, and received no criticism at all!

More from Campaign Whale at the IWC  in Slovenia tomorrow

Campaign Whale’s Opening Statement to the 65th annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC)

Portoroz,  Slovenia

September 15th-18th 2014

A future for whales and the IWC

Campaign Whale is extremely grateful to the Government of Slovenia for a warm welcome to their beautiful country.

Campaign Whale believes the case for ongoing moratorium on commercial whaling is stronger today than ever before. Commercial whaling has devastated many whale populations, pushing populations and even entire species to the brink of extinction. Even today, considerable uncertainty remains over the size and status of the world’s remaining whale populations especially given the mounting threats they face from increasing environmental degradation, such as climate change and toxic pollution.

The recent, tragic extinction of the Baiji dolphin highlights the fact that many of the most threatened populations and species of whales are actually small cetaceans. The IWC has a critical role to play in devising and implementing recovery plans for critically threatened populations and species such as the Vaquita porpoise, which is perilously close to extinction. Surely there can be no higher priority for both Member States and the Commission than this.

Campaign Whale believes the IWC can only meet its responsibilities to conserve and allow for the recovery of the world’s whale populations by upholding and strengthening the moratorium on commercial whaling for decades to come. Times and attitudes have changed, and so has the scale of threats to these wonderful animals. The IWC must evolve from an anachronistic organisation dedicated to whaling into a modern convention dedicated to researching and protecting all cetacean species.

We would like to see the IWC expand its work to address the conservation and welfare needs of all whales, including small cetacean species that are hunted in huge numbers around the world. These animals are under serious threat, including from toxic pollution, which poses a threat both to the whales and the people that eat them.

Campaign Whale is extremely concerned at the serious health risks posed to people that consume whale products that are increasingly contaminated with highly toxic chemical compounds caused mostly by industrial pollution. People that regularly consume whale and dolphin meat, blubber and other organs are seriously jeopardising their health and even that of their children.

Meanwhile, the threat posed to cetaceans and the marine environment from toxic pollution is truly alarming. It is not possible to accurately predict the combined impact of increasing levels of dangerous pollutants and accelerating environmental decline upon whales and dolphins and marine ecosystems. So it cannot be responsibly claimed that consumption of whale products is safe, or that any level of whaling is sustainable.

Campaign Whale would like the IWC to:

  • Prioritise and implement emergency  recovery plans for all critically endangered populations and species, such as the Vaquita.
  • Maintain the moratorium on commercial whaling indefinitely.
  • Reject any proposals that would legitimise commercial whaling in coastal waters.
  • Close existing loopholes that allow commercial whaling under ‘objection’ or for so-called ‘scientific research’.
  • Maintain the essential distinction between commercial and subsistence whaling and oppose increasing efforts to create a new category of whaling that would circumvent the moratorium on commercial whaling.
  • Base any subsistence whaling quotas on nutritional need alone while assessing the health impacts from pollutants on both whales and people
  • Urgently address the inherent cruelty of killing methods.
  • Develop a long-term comprehensive programme of non-lethal research in to the growing environmental threats to all cetaceans.
  • Work with appropriate international fora to end the consumption of contaminated whale products because of the serious risk to human health.
  • End international trade in whale products.
  • Stop the hunting of the small whales, dolphins and porpoises that are killed in their tens of thousands each year and are not protected by the IWC moratorium.
  •  Adopt proposed whale sanctuaries provided they do not compromise the future of the moratorium in any way.
  • Promote and monitor well regulated and responsibly conducted whale-watching operations as a viable and sustainable economic alternative to whaling in the whaling countries.
  • Regulate whale-watching and reduce or halt operations where disturbance is a problem

 

Nightmare in the north-east Atlantic!

Last year witnessed an alarming escalation in whaling activity in the north-east Atlantic.  This whaling is taking place in waters on Europe’s doorstep,  in Britain’s back-yard.  Over 2,000 whales were killed by the whalers of Iceland, Norway and the Faroe Islands last year,  making the north-east Atlantic now the epicentre of global whaling. Although whaling is strongly opposed by the public and whales are strictly protected in British and all  EU waters, there seems to be no political will to oppose the defiant whaling nations that are killing more whales every year.

According to Norwegian news reports, by the end of June, with months of the whaling season left,  over 600 minke whales had been cruelly harpooned.  The consumption of whale meat is being heavily promoted in the country after years of decline in consumption.Norwegian whaling pix 03

Iceland’s whalers are targeting 154  fin whales and 229 minke whales this year. Already this year, Iceland’s  whaling company has exported a shocking 2,000 tons of whale products to Japan. More than 5,000 tonnes of whale meat and blubber have been exported to Japan since Iceland’s resumption of commercial whaling in 2006, much of it used in luxury dog food!

In 2013,  a staggering 1,100 pilot whales and 430 white-sided dolphins were hacked to death in the Faroe Islands which are situated midway between Scotland and Iceland.   The killing goes on despite repeated public health warnings that the meat and blubber is so contaminated with mercury and other toxic pollutants that it is unsafe to eat.  Despite the huge kills in recent years,  another whale hunt took place in May this year and another 13 pilot whales were killed.  Hundreds more whales and dolphins could be killed this year.

Around 200 large whales are killed in Greenland each year. While authorised by the International Whaling Commission (IWC) as a subsistence hunt, this whaling has become increasingly controversial in terms of its commercialisation and actual  need for the meat and blubber.  Meanwhile, very large numbers of small whales and dolphins are also hunted in Greenland.

  • Norway resumed commercial whaling in 1993 having ‘objected’ to the ban on commercial whaling introduced in 1986. The Norwegian Government has set a record quota for a staggering 1,286 minke whalesthis year. Last year 566 minke whales were slaughtered.
  • Iceland resumed commercial whaling in 2006 (but killed many whales for so-called ‘research’ before leaving the IWC in protest at the whaling ban in 1991). Last year an annual quota of 216 minke and 184 endangered fin whales was set.  In 2013,  38 minke and 134 fin whales were actually killed.
  • In the Faroe Islands no quotas are set which means up to a thousand or more whales and dolphins are hunted each year,  producing huge volumes of meat and blubber so contaminated with toxic pollutants that  health leaders have long warned it should not be eaten.

The campaign to ‘save the whales’ began in the mid-1970’s and culminated with the historic decision taken by the International Whaling Commission (IWC) to introduce an indefinite ban on commercial whaling in 1986.  While this ban saved many whale populations and even entire species from extinction, it has been persistently defied by just a handful of nations.  Encouraged by little opposition, those nations are now escalating their whaling operations to unprecedented levels.flensing a fin

The renegade whaling nations have  killed around 40,000 great whales during the 28-years of the commercial whaling ban and this year will see whales killed in record numbers. While Australia has taken Japan to the International Court of Justice in the Hague to challenge its so-called ‘scientific’ whaling programme in Antarctica, whaling in the north-Atlantic is escalating unopposed.

Whale meat shockers! 

•In Norway, a marked decline in interest in whaling and eating whale meat has led to a concerted marketing drive to try and rekindle the public appetite for whale meat.
•In Iceland, most of the minke whale meat is actually eaten by foreign tourists!  This has led to the UK foreign Office issuing warnings to UK citizens not to be tempted to try it when visiting the country.
•Meat from the endangered fin whales has been intercepted at EU ports in Holland and Germany and returned to Iceland. It has even passed through the port of Southampton!
•In Japan, the imported meat of endangered fin whales from Iceland is being used in dog food!
•In the Faroes, Chief Medical Officers have repeatedly warned people to stop eating whale meat because of the toxic pollutants that concentrate in the whales, or face serious health problems for themselves and their children.

Campaign Whale is launching a major campaign targeting whaling in the north-east Atlantic.  Further news of the campaign and how you can help will follow soon.

 

Japan’s ‘scientific’ whaling ruled illegal!

2nd April 2014

Some 40,000 whales have been killed in defiance of the ban on commercial whaling introduced in 1986, with over 15,000 whales slaughtered for so-called ‘scientific research’.

Today, while Norway and Iceland are openly defying this ban by conducting commercial whaling operations in the north-Atlantic, Japan has continued to kill hundreds of whales every year for over two decades in ‘scientific’ whaling programmes condemned as little more than commercial whaling in disguise.the-yushin-maru-catcher-ship-o

However now at last, in a landmark case brought by Australia and backed by New Zealand, the International Court of Justice has ruled Japan’s notorious ‘scientific’ whaling in Antarctica is a commercial operation, is therefore illegal and must be halted. A shocked Japanese Government has said it will abide by this decision, but that remains to be seen.

Campaign Whale fears that even if this ruling is respected it may prove costly for whales elsewhere. This is because Japan also conducts ‘scientific’ whaling in the north Pacific, killing hundreds of whales there every year. This whaling operation remains unaffected by the ICJ ruling and could even be increased as a result of it.

It is to be hoped that the Japanese Government will respect the ICJ ruling and abandon its cynical ‘scientific’ whaling charade, but a long history of defiance suggests otherwise. It is likely that the Japanese Government will simply devise another ‘research’ plan for Antarctica and so return to the Southern Ocean, a designated whale sanctuary, to kill even more whales in the near future.

Meanwhile, even if all of Japan’s whaling on the high seas were finally to end, the horrific slaughter of thousands of dolphins and other small whales in Japan’s coastal waters every year is set to continue regardless. Campaign Whale will continue to fight for the protection of all whales and an end to all whaling

Faroe Islands in mass whale and dolphin killing horror!

Over 1,000 whales and dolphins have been driven ashore and brutally slaughtered with hooks and knives in the Faroe Islands in just the past 24 days.  On August 13th,  a staggering 450 dolphins were horrifically killed at Hvalba. A Faroese man prepares to kill a dolphin with his whaling knife

Every year around 700 pilot whales are killed for their meat and blubber in the Faroes.  The whaling continues even though Faroese Health officials have repeatedly warned that the whales and dolphins are so heavily contaminated with toxic pollutants like mercury and PCBs, they pose a serious health threat both to the whales and the people still eating them.  These pollutants have been directly linked to serious health problems  found in men, women and children in the Faroes.

Change is coming,  but tradition dies hard. Campaign Whale is working both within and outside of the Faroes to end this senseless slaughter as quickly as possible.

For more information about how you can help please click here

Call on Faroes Prime Minister to end whaling

Campaign Whale has written to the Faroes’ Prime Minister, along with ten other anti-whaling organisations, calling for an end to the cruel slaughter of  whales and dolphins on public health, animal welfare and conservation grounds.

The letter follows another summer of whale hunts resulting in the driving and killing of 590 pilot whales, despite a repeat of health warnings,  first issued by Faroese Health leaders in 2008, that the meat is unsafe to eat because of toxic contaminants like mercury that concentrate in the whales through the food chain.

Accompanying the letter, the groups issued the following statement to the Faroese media: 

NGO Statement on Pilot whales killed in the Faroe Islands -September 6th, 2012

The undersigned environmental and animal welfare organisations are very concerned about the high number of pilot whales killed in the Faroe Islands this year. Through to 24th August, 590 long-finned pilot whales have been killed on the Islands in 2012. Since the beginning of 2010,  2,423 pilot whales have been killed on the Islands raising serious human health, animal welfare and conservation concerns. Whale being killed Faroes August 2012

Consumption and Health Risk

Meat and blubber from the animals are distributed and sold in the Faroe Islands for human consumption, despite evidence of high levels of mercury and PCBs. Long-term research undertaken by Danish and Faroese scientists has revealed that consumption of pilot whale meat and blubber has detrimental effects on the development of foetal nervous and immune systems, and increases the risk of Parkinson’s disease, hypertension, arteriosclerosis of the carotid arteries in adults, and Type II diabetes.

The Faroe Islands’ Chief Medical Officer and Chief Scientist have jointly issued health warnings several times. In an open letter to the Government on 8th August 2008, they stated that pilot whale should no longer be used for human consumption. This conclusion has recently been repeated in the review article published in 2012, “Dietary recommendationsregarding pilot whale meat and blubber in the Faroe Islands” by Pál Weihe and Høgni Debes Joensen, based on additional long-term cohort studies.

Scientific agreement

There is broad scientific agreement on the strong link between mercury in cetacean (whale, dolphin and porpoise) products and a variety of human diseases and medical conditions, including Parkinson’s disease, arteriosclerosis, immune suppression and hypertension. Threats to children include autism, Asperger’s Syndrome and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

In July 2012 at its Annual Meeting, the International Whaling Commission (IWC) adopted by consensus a resolution proposed by the EU IWC members including Denmark, requesting increased cooperation with the World Health Organization (WHO). It encourages the WHO to review scientific publications regarding contaminants in cetacean products and provide updated advice for consumers. It also urges governments to remain vigilant in responsibly
informing consumers of health effects associated with the consumption of polluted cetacean products, and taking steps to counter any negative effects based on rigorous scientific advice and clear risk assessments.

Unfortunately the Government of the Faroe Islands has failed so far to adopt the recommendations of its own scientific experts to end the consumption of pilot whale, and instead supports continuation of the grinds and the consumption of these polluted whale products. Indeed, if all the meat and blubber of the 590 whales killed this year is consumed, it will by far exceed the Faroese Government’s June 2011 guidelines that recommend a maximum of one meal per month.

Animal Welfare and Conservation

Pilot whales tend to migrate to the calmer waters around the Faroe Islands to give birth from April to July. Pilot whale hunts frequently occur during the breeding season despite there being agreement internationally that hunting during breeding seasons should be avoided to allow for stable populations to endure. For this reason targeting animals accompanied by calves is expressly forbidden by the International Whaling Commission (IWC) – the world’s expert cetacean management authority. The status of cetaceans that occur around the Faroe Islands is uncertain in many cases and the impacts of the hunts which take entire family groups is also unknown. Pilot whales are protected under European law, which prohibits takes as a primary conservation measure. Many of the pilot whales that occur in Faroese waters also travel to EU waters.

The methods used to kill whales in the Faroe Islands have been subject to international criticism for decades. In the hunts, known as ‘grinds’, large family groups of whales are driven by boats into a bay where they are crudely killed with hooks and knives. Pilot whales are known for their highly social behaviours and close-knit family groups. Although Faroese authorities claim killing methods have improved, there is no documentary evidence to prove this. The grinds are a lengthy process that also involves extreme distress for the whales associated with the chasing, separation of social groups, and individual whales experiencing close family members being slaughtered. This is in addition to the inherent cruelty associated with the killing methods.

In conclusion and in consideration of the serious concerns raised, the undersigned organisations urge the Faroese people to bring a permanent end to the hunting of pilot whales and other cetacean species for the benefit of human health, animal welfare and conservation.

Faroes whale kill goes on despite health warnings!

On Thursday 9th August, a pod of 40 pilot whales was driven ashore at Hvannasund in the Faroe Islands. The terrified whales then suffered blunt hooks thrust into their blowholes so they could be dragged into the shallows. There, men with knives cut down through the flesh and blubber semi-decapitating the whales in order to sever the major arteries to ensure the animals would bleed to death. The previous day, 196 whales were killed in Vagur, making a grim total of over 230 whales killed that week alone, with a total of 467 pilot whales killed by the Faroese this year.

A staggering 2,306 pilot whales and 210 dolphins have been driven ashore and cruelly slaughtered since 2008 alone. Incredibly, that same year, Faroese health leaders warned that the whale meat, blubber and organs were not safe to eat because of the mercury and other toxic contaminants that accumulate in the whales through the oceanic food chain.

In June this year, Campaign Whale returned to the Faroe Islands to attend a conference on ‘Hunting and Protecting of Marine Mammals – A clash of Cultures?’ in the capital of Torshavn on the 4th and 5th of June. While that conference was underway 125 pilot whales were driven ashore and slaughtered on a neighbouring island just a few miles away. Some graphic film footage taken after this hunt can be seen below:

Campaign Whale is working to end Faroes whaling which is a cruel tradition and an unfolding tragedy for both the whales and the people that eat them.

For more information, including how you can help our campaign, please click here

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