Over 230 pilot whales killed in Faroe Islands

236 pilot whales have been slaughtered in back-to-back grinds in the Faroe Islands. Yesterday’s total of 196 whales was the largest number of marine mammals killed so far in a grind this year.

The grind that occurred in Vagur yesterday, along with the 40 pilot whales slaughtered this morning, takes the total number of pilot whales killed in the Faroe Islands this summer to approximately 467.

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According to the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, the first grind of the summer occurred on May 16th in Trongisvágur, Suduroy, where 63 pilot whales were killed. In a separate grind on June 5th at Sandur, Sandoy, 125 pilot whales were killed. A further 43 pilot whales were slaughtered July 10 at Klaksvik.

Records of drive hunts in the Faroe Islands date back to 1584. The hunt typically takes place between the months of May and August, but can occur year round. When whales are spotted around the islands, convoys of small boats and jet skis push the panicked pods up into shallow waters until they beach.

Once the whales are close to shore, Faroese residents rush into the shallows to kill them. At this point says WDCS, “blunt-ended metal hooks inserted into their blowholes are used to drag the whales up the beach or in the shallows, where they are killed with a knife cut to their major blood vessels.”

Called the grindadráp in Faroese, many island residents believe the whale hunt is of cultural and traditional significance. The meat gleaned from the hunt is distributed throughout the island and divided into shares called a skinn. One skinn equals 38 kg of whale meat plus 34 kg of blubber for 72 kg in total.

WDCS says the hunts can be carried out in any of 24 sanctioned bays on the island but calls the “driving, dragging and killing, all of which takes place within view of their pod members,” as “intensely stressful and cruel.”

According to The Encyclopedia of Earth, long-finned pilot whales (scientific name: Globicephala melas) are said to be “equally as intelligent as the bottlenose dolphin.” Pilot whales have even been “trained by the U.S. Navy to recover lost marine equipment at considerable depths in the ocean,” said the encyclopedia.

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