Sea Shepherd Wants Denmark Held Accountable for Whale Slaughter

Sea Shepherd Global asserts that police officers employed by Denmark on board a Faroese boat actively engaged in herding pilot whales for the Grind slaughter.

Published May 10, 2017 11:51 AM by The Maritime Executive

Sea Shepherd Netherlands has officially submitted a request to the European Commission to launch infringement proceedings against Denmark for facilitating the slaughter of pilot whales and other cetaceans in the Faroe Islands.

The organization says it has the formal support of 27 Members of the European Parliament.

Every year from June through November, hundreds of pilot whales are driven onto the beaches of the Faroe Islands using motor boats, then slaughtered in a practice known as the grindadráp, or Grind. Although there is an E.U. directive prohibiting member states from all forms of deliberate disturbance, capture or killing of cetaceans, the self-governing Faroe Islands are a dependent territory of Denmark but not an E.U. member state and are, therefore, exempt from E.U. laws.

Sea Shepherd’s infringement claim presents evidence alleging that Danish officials from the police, navy and customs have been facilitating and even actively participating in the Grind, causing the death of cetaceans in contravention of the E.U. Habitats Directive on the Conservation of Natural Habitats and of Wild Fauna and Flora.

28 Sea Shepherd volunteers were arrested during the organization's 2014 and 2015 Pilot Whale Defense Campaigns in the Faroe Islands. Many of those were subsequently deported. During the same period, Faroese and Danish authorities confiscated four Sea Shepherd small boats used to defend pilot whales, and arrested Sea Shepherd Captain Jessie Treverton on charges of harassing dolphins by guiding them away from a killing beach. 

Sea Shepherd has led opposition to the grind since 1983. 

The key points of the complaint are:

(1) The long-finned pilot whales and the other cetaceans killed in the Faroe Islands are subject to “strict protection” under the Habitats Directive.

(2) Denmark’s direct facilitation of the grindadráps constitutes “deliberate” killing or disturbance of the long-finned pilot whales and other protected cetaceans, conduct expressly prohibited by the Habitats Directive.

(3) Significantly more cetaceans die as a result of Denmark’s direct involvement in the grindadráps.

(4) Denmark is obligated to comply with the Habitats Directive, regardless of the conservation status of the species at issue.

(5) The Habitats Directive applies to Danish activities supporting the grindadráps in the Faroe Islands, a conclusion supported on a number of grounds, including the fact that the cetaceans slaughtered in the Faroe Islands travel routinely through E.U. waters.

(6) Sea Shepherd’s extensive efforts to resolve this issue directly with Denmark have been unsuccessful.

(7) Denmark has not asserted (and truly cannot legitimately assert) a “derogation” from the Habitat’s Directive related to its support of the grindadráps, and the Commission cannot assert one on Denmark’s behalf.