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Faroe Islands to Regulate Annual Dolphin Hunt After Outcry

The latest restriction on the annual Grind pilot-whale hunt will limit the dolphin take to 500

eileen sanda
Faroese fishermen herd a pod of whales into a fjord, 2012 (Eileen Sanda / CC BY SA 3.0)

Published Jul 10, 2022 10:50 PM by The Maritime Executive

The Faroese government has agreed to limit the number of dolphins caught during its controversial whale hunt, practiced annually in the archipelago.

Last year, the hunt received widespread criticism after 1,500 dolphins were massacred in what Faroese residents treat as a traditional event. The hunt is known as Grindadrap in Faroese, or the grind, and it involves the use of boats to herd whales and dolphins into a shallow bay for slaughter. The tradition has been ongoing on the island for centuries, but has historically centered on pilot whales, which will not be covered by the new dolphin catch limit. 

Animal rights activists have long decried the hunt as cruel and unnecessary. In response, the campaigners created a petition to regulate the event, which so far has garnered 1.3 million signatures.

Over the weekend, the Faroese government announced it is moving to limit the annual catch of the white-sided dolphins to 500 animals for the next two years. For now, the limit is provisional with the government directing the Scientific Committee of NAMMCO, the North Atlantic Marine Mammal Commission to advise it on sustainable catches of white-sided dolphins.

However, the review only applies to dolphin hunt and not the entire grind tradition, which is predominantly focused on pilot whales. The proposal is expected to take effect on July 25 after public participation is concluded.

“It has been acknowledged that aspects of the catch were not satisfactory, in particular the unusually large number of dolphins killed. This made procedures difficult to manage and is unlikely to be a sustainable level of catch on long-term basis,” read a government statement.

Although in most of Europe there is a ban on killing of whales and dolphins, specifically through the Bern convention, this does not apply to Faroe Islands where the government usually licenses dolphin hunts. The territory is also not a member of the International Whaling Commission.

The Faroese government maintains that catching of small whales remains an important supplement to the livelihoods of Faroese, who for centuries have relied on the use of marine resources for their economy and food security.

Anti-whaling advocacy organization ORCA notes that last year's dolphin take exceeded the total for the past 14 years combined, reflecting the fact that dolphins have not previously been a primary target species. The group has accused the Faroese government of formalizing a hunt that did not previously exist, and it described the new catch limit as "spin and bluster." 

Top image: Faroese fishermen herd a pod of whales into a fjord, 2012 (Eileen Sanda / CC BY SA 3.0)