The Faroe Islands to limit dolphins killed to 500 following international backlash

The Faroe Islands to limit dolphins killed to 500 following international backlash

The Faroe Islands will limit the number of dolphins killed in its annual hunt after it faced a backlash for the number of animals slaughtered last year.

In September 2021, more than 1,400 white-sided dolphins were killed in just one day sparking international outrage. In response, the prime minister of the Faroe Islands announced that the government would review the dolphin hunt.

As a result, this year, the Faroe Islands will provisionally limit the dolphin hunt to 500 animals.

The limit will apply to white-sided dolphins for the next two years but does not apply to the hunting tradition overall–which particularly targets pilot whales (which are part of the dolphin family).

Why do the Faroe Islands kill dolphins?

The Faroe Islands have had a long tradition of hunting small whales and dolphins, with the annual hunt dating back to at least 1584. The tradition is known in Faroese as Grindadráp.

Although whales are the primary target, the long-finned pilot whale, bottlenose dolphins, and Atlantic white-sided dolphins are among those hunted and killed for their meat and blubber.

However, it is thought that the consumption of dolphin meat is declining due to concerns about its high levels of mercury. The Faroese Government has introduced strict health guidelines on its consumption as a result.

What happens during the dolphin hunt?

During the whale and dolphin hunt, boats herd the animals into shallow waters at Skalabotnur beach in Eysturoy. Once they are beached, they are killed with knives. The animals who don’t reach the shore are dragged to the beach instead, with metal hooks.

Their carcases are then dragged onto land and are distributed to locals for their meat and blubber.

When is the Faroe Islands dolphin hunt?

The controversial hunt last year, during which 1,400 dolphins were killed, took place in September, but the hunts generally take place in the summer months.

What has the response been in the Faroe Islands and internationally?

In recent years, the whale and dolphin hunt has received widespread criticism internationally.

A petition calling on the UK to suspend their trade agreement with the Faroe Islands until all whale and dolphin hunts end received more than 100,000 signatures and will be discussed in parliament today, July 11.

In response to the petition, the government said: “The UK strongly opposes the hunting of cetaceans and is committed to upholding high animal welfare standards in its trade relationships. We continue to urge the Faroe Islands to stop cetacean hunts.”

There appears to be some local opposition to the dolphin hunt too. Following the controversy in September 2021, a poll by broadcaster Kringvarp Føroya found that while 83% of locals support killing pilot whales, 53% of islanders are opposed to killing the white-sided dolphin.

Where are the Faroe Islands?

The Faroe Islands is an island country between Iceland, Norway, and Scotland in the North Atlantic Ocean. The country closest to the Faroe Islands is Scotland–the North Rona, part of Scotland’s Outer Hebrides, is 257km to the south.

The Faroe Islands is a self-governing region within the Kingdom of Denmark, and its official languages are Faroese and Danish.

The 18 islands have a population of around 50,000 people, and 17 out of the 18 islands are inhabited.

The Faroe Islands’ main industry is finishing, which accounts for around 90% of its exports.

Lead Image: A pilot whale hunt in the Faroe Islands in 2019 / AFP via Getty Images. This article by Seren Morris was first published by The Evening Standard on 11 July 2022.

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