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Whales are wailing (in Faroes and Puget Sound)

By Dave Armstrong - 31 Aug 2014 16:58:0 GMT
Whales are wailing (in Faroes and Puget Sound)

If you don't realise you are dealing with "a very big dolphin", the heart-shaped marking on the throat is species specific for the pilot whale Globiocephala melaena. This guy isn't shy, he's spy-hopping! Spy-hopping image; Credit: © Sea Shepherd

While slaughter continues in the Faroes, orca shortages are being reported in Puget Sound (in the NE Pacific) as human interference still continues to reduce populations of some whales. The Sea Shepherd organisation have the more gripping story at - Sea Shepherd crew members arrested.

It is of some concern that we eat many animals that most wouldn't dream of, in odd corners of Africa, Japan and the Faeroes. Very few have any excuse, although the shortage of food in some African states seems eternal. Pilot whales are, in the North Atlantic, known as longfin pilots, or even Caa'ing whales (in the Orkneys where islanders used to call them to come ashore.) Globicephala melaena is a medium sized whale at 6-8.5m (20-28feet) almost as large as an orca and quite closely related. The slaughter in the Faroes is an annual culling of about 1500 individuals, for no modern reason, as the Danes would be able to supply their ancient autonomous territory with food if any shortage arose.

Traditionally, the Orcadians mentioned earlier, the Shetlanders and many others of Norse origin hunted pilot whales in shallow bays. Since 1584, the Faroes have used their traditional rights to hunt whales in a sort of celebratory right. Bonfires are lit on island promontories to signal that villagers should beat pots and pans and flinging slingshots into the sea to "stampede" schools of up to 40 pilots into a shallow bay. The practice is not only known to the Faroese. Newfoundlanders may remember a scandalous but unrestricted hunt of pilot whales that killed 10,000 animals in 1956 alone! As might be expected the species is now much more common in the southern hemisphere, where no hunting has taken place. In the Faeroes last year. the highest fatalities were at Fuglafjorour, where a traditional "grind" killed 267 whales.

The hunting has naturally attracted the attention of Sea Shepherd, more used to risking all in attempts to frustrate the so-called scientific expeditions to the southern hemisphere by Japanese whalers. In a failed attempt to prevent the killing of 33 pilots in a pod, 14 protestors were arrested, including 8 on boats and 6 onshore. The actor Charlie Sheen won't be best pleased, as one of the boats, a 40-footer named BS Sheen, was seized by the military. Many well-known celebrities find themselves supporting protests with many more of us willing to devote time and effort to add to the publicity. The actress Pamela Anderson arrived on the islands to join 500 other volunteers, so events could get very interesting, as journalist rarely resist a good story.

What goes against the grain about these "traditional" killings is the involvement of the Danish Armed Forces Arctic Command. Their ship, which could be better employed protecting Europe, arrested protestors and seized boats before handing them to the police. European law that applies in a Danish territory distinctly prohibits any killing of whales or dolphins, after previous experiences in the Mediterranean made legislation necessary. The violence shown by islanders doesn't sit well with their situation either. One Sea Shepherd volunteer from Spain was violently assaulted. As the Sea Shepherd's Captain Watson states, there is blood on their hands and "all is not well in the state of Denmark, either!"