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Faroese Whale Hunt Plays Out in Front of Shocked Cruise Tourists

Two of the Faroese whalers, as photographed from the deck of the cruise ship Ambition (ORCA)
Two of the Faroese whalers, as photographed from the deck of the cruise ship Ambition (ORCA)

Published Jul 17, 2023 8:07 PM by The Maritime Executive

During a visit to the port of Torshavn last week, passengers aboard the cruise ship Ambition were given an uncomfortable welcome by a group of local residents, who killed about 78 pilot whales and dolphins within view of the bow. 

The whale and dolphin nonprofit ORCA had members aboard the ship as whalewatching guides, and many of the passengers had signed on for the chance to see marine mammals in the wild, the organization said. The ship and the conservationists arrived in Torshavn just in time for the sixth hunt of this year's Faroese whale-hunting season, and they watched the event unfold from alongside the pier.

According to ORCA, about 40 small craft herded the whales into the shallow end of the harbor, where they were killed with lances and slaughtered (video here, viewer discretion advised). The event took about 20 minutes, and ORCA alleged that the Faroese were “flaunting the hunt” in front of tourists aboard the Ambition. 

The traditional pilot whale 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. Animal rights activists have long decried the hunt as cruel and unnecessary; last year, the hunt received widespread criticism after 1,500 dolphins were massacred in a single hunt. 

Over the years, the grind has drawn calls for boycotting the Faroe Islands' seafood and tourism industries. The cruise industry's presence in the Faroe Islands is relatively quiet, and the recent events at Torshavn are unlikely to attract brand-conscious cruise lines. Over the next year, just a handful of lines have listed itineraries with a call in Torshavn.

"At some point, the Faroese authorities will have to decide if its marine life is a more attractive tourist proposition when it is alive than when it is being killed," said ORCA CEO Sally Hamilton in a statement. 

In a statement, Ambassador Cruise Lines CEO Christian Verhounig said that the company is  "extremely disappointed" in the outcome of the recent cruise, and he suggested that the hunters have developed a financial (rather than traditional) motivation. "We strongly object to this outdated practice, which we believe is now becoming commercial, with meats sold in local supermarkets," he said. "We continue to educate our guests and crew not to buy or eat any whale or dolphin meat and stand against any profiteering from commercial whaling and dolphin hunts."