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Fin whaling out of control in Iceland

<Warning this story contains graphic images>

Two whales landed today, the 24th of August, are a suspected hybrid of a blue and fin whale and yet another pregnant fin whale. This takes the tally so far to 99 killed adult whales (including hybrids but excluding fetuses.)

Images were taken at the fin whaling station at Hvalfjordur, Iceland,  by our contact at German organisation, Hard to Port, show whaling station workers forming a ‘human chain’ to shield the disturbing sight of the fetus lying on the concrete from observers.

Only days ago, news of the killing of a pregnant whale made global headlines and the horrific sight of a fetus being dragged away by whaling station staff has provoked outrage.

The whalers remained defiant and attempted to downplay the incident by stating that they had already landed 11 pregnant whales this summer. Fin whaler Kristjan Loftsson even suggested that killing so many whales which turned out to be pregnant was a sign of a healthy fin whale population and he commented: “If we hunted here during a whole summer season and we got no fetuses then there would be something wrong.”

However, Edda Elísabet Magnúsdóttir, based at the biology department of the University of Iceland, said: By allowing the hunting of whales you are always allowing the hunting of pregnant whales. When they are hunting it’s impossible to tell which sex the animal is or whether it’s pregnant. The females have a gestation period for a year so it’s fairly likely that a hunted female is in some stage of pregnancy.”

Observers reported this morning that ‘whale 98’ looks very different to a true fin whale and is very likely to be another hybrid. In early July, a male whale landed created considerable controversy as it looked far more like a blue whale than a fin whale. Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC) consulted global blue whale experts who all confirmed that the whale looked sufficiently like a blue whale to call for rapid genetic testing. Tests concluded that the whale was indeed a rare blue /fin whale hybrid.

Vanessa Williams-Grey, who leads WDC’s campaign to end whaling in Iceland said:

“Today’s killings demonstrate if further proof was needed, that the fin whaling is out of control.  It seems that two rare hybrid whales have been killed, along with a dozen unborn fin whales and the season still has weeks left to run. These whales are dying for no reason – there is no demand for their meat within Iceland and the meat from hybrids cannot be exported to Japan. The bodies of the fetuses will end up in the trash. The fact that the whaling station is trying to shield these deaths from observers means that they know that this is far from acceptable behaviour. Icelanders themselves are increasingly calling for an end to this industry which has brought such unnecessary suffering to an endangered species.

We call on the Icelandic government to hear the people, to listen to world opinion, and refuse to sanction any further hunts.”