Faroe Islands announces hunting review after massacre of 1,428 dolphins in a day

Warning: Distressing images

Dolphins are driven for hours by hunters using boats until they are trapped on the shore (Picture: Sea Shepherd/SWNS, ANDRIJA ILIC/AFP/Getty, Anna18vr/Wikimedia Commons)

International outrage over the butchering of nearly 1,500 dolphins in a single evening has prompted the Faroe Islands government to launch a review.

The centuries-old traditional Grindadrap hunt sees pilot whales and white-sided dolphins driven to shore for hours on end by hunters using boats and jet-skis.

Whole families find themselves stranded on the beach and are sliced in their necks indiscriminately, turning the surrounding water red with their blood.

Even many whalers were dead against Sunday’s bloodbath on the island of the island of Skálafjørðuras.

It saw an unprecedented 1,428 white-sided dolphins killed – compared to the annual average of 250.

No one really knows how many of these creatures are in the Faroe Island’s waters, but the autonomous Danish territory still sought to defend it, as reported this week by

So many were killed, that excess blubber has been taken in disposal trucks to an incineration centre.

Now, after plenty of backlash at both at home and abroad, the government is having a re-think and could end up putting a stop to the slaughter of these creatures.

In a statement released this afternoon, it said Sunday’s hunt was ‘exceptional’, as the pod ‘outnumbered the second largest pod ever by more than three times, which resulted in severe difficulties once the animals had reached the bay’.

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Sunday’s hunt in ption: largest dolphin hunt in recorded history saw 1,428 animal slaughtered in Faroe Islands SWNS
Whole gene pools of dolphins are cut in their necks indiscriminately, including calves and pregnant mothers (Picture: Sea Shepherd/SWNS)
A line of dead dolphins litter the waters of Skálafjørðuras (Picture: SWNS)

While it said pilot whale hunting, also known as ‘grind’, is an ‘integral part of Faroese food culture’, it said white-sided dolphins ‘do not have the same cultural legitimacy’.

It added that measures have been taking to ‘improve hunting methods and animal welfare’ including improvements to equipment, such as the blowhole hook and the spinal lance.

In a statement, Faroe Islands Prime Minister Bárður á Steig Nielsen said: ‘We take this matter very seriously.

‘Although these hunts are considered sustainable, we will be looking closely at the dolphin hunts, and what part they should play in Faroese society.

‘The government has decided to start an evaluation of the regulations on the catching of Atlantic white-sided dolphins.’

Volunteer at the Blue Planet Society John Hourston said the review is a ‘step in the right direction’ but said it would be disappointing to see a limit on numbers.

He told ‘I genuinely think we’ll hear an announcement in the coming weeks saying they are going to stop killing white-sided dolphins.

‘They’re not culturally important to you, they’re not a historic part of your diet, there’s no need to kill them.

‘If they stop doing that, who knows, 10 years down the line we might see an end to the pilot whale slaughter.’

According to the Whale and Dolphin Conservation, 53.6% of Faroese people think that dolphin killing should be banned – up from 46.75% three years ago.

Public opinion may be further swayed after Sunday’s hunt sent shockwaves through the community.

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No proper assessment has been done on the number of white-sided dolphins in the Faroe Island’s waters (Picture: Sea Shepherd/SWNS)
Every summer the waters surrounding the Faroe Islands are left red with blood (Picture: Sea Shepherd/SWNS)
In a statement today, the Faroese government has accepted that white-sided dolphins have less cultural relevance to them than pilot whales (Picture: Sea Shepherd/SWNS)

Mr Hourston added: ‘The chairman of the Grindadrap association says this has affected the reputation of the Faroese like he’s never seen. There’s been nothing quite like this.’

Many see the practice as cruel and barbaric, but sustainability is also a big concern.

Mr Hourston said: ‘They have clearly no idea the numbers of white-sided dolphins on their shores.

‘If you think about any country that was allowing its people to hunt an animal without really knowing the population or any scientific data about that species – it just smacks of recklessness and irresponsibility.

‘For it to be sanctioned at government level is inexcusable. They can say whatever they want now and say “okay it’s not part of our cultural heritage”.

‘What it’s saying to me is “we don’t know anything about the species but we’ve made a huge mistake and we’ve wiped out a sub-population of the white-sided dolphin”.

‘Effectively that is a sub-population. I’ve heard it been related to a city, it’s more like a country, you’ve got a country of dolphins.

‘You’ll have populations all over the North Atlantic, and that could well be it. Compared to say bottlenose dolphins we know very little about the white-sided dolphin.

‘It could be that they have wiped out the entire Faroe population in one go. We don’t know. They don’t know.

‘If this is an organised government regulated and sanctioned hunt, then what went wrong? They haven’t admitted any failures.’

Mr Hourston says the only numbers we really have on the regions pilot whales – which are also a type of dolphin – are the Faroe Island’s own estimates.

He added: ‘If they found it wasn’t sustainable would they stop? I don’t know. They’re currently over-fishing mackerel against scientific advice. Is it all about what they need to fulfil their traditions and make money?’

The Faroese government often defends Grindadrap as an important source of food that doesn’t have to be imported from afar.

But activists point out that the country, which is outside of the EU, has plenty of supermarkets and a GDP per-capita of around £46,000.

Mr Hourston added: ‘There are supermarkets on every islands, and they’re not just small ones, they’re really good.

‘They are better equipped with modern facilities than your average Scottish archipelago.

‘They have under-sea tunnels linking all the islands, with Danish money which has come from the EU. When the European Union say they can’t have any influence on this, they’re talking rot.’

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