Iceland’s lone whaling company’s ongoing defiance of an international ban on commercial whaling is outrageous and offence enough as it continues to target endangered fin and minke whales, but now it’s reached a new low after having illegally slaughtered the first blue whale in decades.
After a two year break from whaling, Hvalur hf announced earlier this spring that it would resume this year with a record-high quota that could reach 238 endangered fin whales, making it the only nation in the world to target this endangered species.
Since it started in June, 21 fin whales have already become victims of the company’s exploding harpoons, but now it’s under fire for slaughtering an endangered blue whale who is believed to be the first killed in 50 years.
This crime was exposed thanks to Sea Shepherd volunteers who were monitoring the Hvalur hf whaling, who captured photos and videos that made it possible to make the identification.
Experts consulted acknowledged that it could be a blue/fin whale hybrid, but it’s not likely. According to Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC), Icelandic authorities have confirmed that five hybrids have been identified by researchers since 1986 around Iceland, but four of them were killed by whalers.
“While I can’t entirely rule out the possibility that this is a hybrid, I don’t see any characteristics that would suggest that. From the photos, it has all the characteristics of a blue whale; given that – notably the coloration pattern – there is almost no possibility that an experienced observer would have misidentified it as anything else at sea,” said Dr. Phillip Clapham, NOAA Alaska Fisheries Science Center.
While the whale was butchered and removed from sight, there still a possibility that any questions about whether this was a blue whale can be confirmed by genetic testing, and both Sea Shepherd and WDC are calling for an investigation into the incident.
“The crime committed against this iconic whale must be fully investigated by independent inspectors with DNA samples taken from all the whale meat and parts in storage at Loftsson’s whaling station and warehouses since the whale has been butchered and removed from view potentially to hide the evidence as Loftsson has no authority (even within Iceland) to kill a Blue whale. In addition, environmental DNA samples should be taken from whaling station equipment, surfaces and containers to look for Blue whale DNA in case the butchered parts have been removed to hide this latest atrocity,” said Sea Shepherd UK’s Chief Operating officer Robert Read.
While the death of a blue whale at the hand of whalers is unquestionably tragic, the loss of hundreds of others, along with this company’s ongoing attempts to keep commercial whaling alive, are no less shameful. Anti-whaling advocates have continued to work to shut it down, and promote the country’s whale watching industry, which is far more valuable and sustainable, and hopefully this incident will help increase support.
This article was first published by Care2.com on 12 Jul 2018.
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