Experts remain sceptical of initial test results issued by the Icelandic Marine Institute, which indicate that a whale controversially killed just a few days ago by whalers was a blue/fin hybrid, not a pure blue.
Blue whales are a protected species even in Icelandic waters but hybrids are not and, despite their equally rare status, there are no penalties for killing a hybrid blue/fin whale.
According to a press release, the Institute states, “the genetic results confirm the preliminary assessment that the whale in question that was caught on July 7th was a hybrid of a fin whale father and a blue whale mother.”
Following the release of images of the whale, after it was landed on Saturday, 17 scientists believed that Iceland had broken international law by killing a blue whale and called for a halt to the whaling company’s (Hvalur hf.) operations.
Due to massive pressure from blue whale experts, the media and the public, the genetic testing was fast-tracked and the results were published last night.
However, doubts still remain about the testing. Vanessa Williams-Grey, policy manager at WDC, commented that “given that it is in the Icelandic whalers’ interest to have this whale confirmed as a hybrid – thus getting them off the charge of killing a blue whale – how can we be sure that the testing process was genuine and robust? We demand transparency and call for the results to be scrutinized by independent experts”.
Whalers in Iceland dismiss hybrids as ‘anomalies of nature’ and have already killed four of only five known hybrids since 1983. Even though hybrids are infertile in other animal species, a blue-fin whale hybrid that was caught in Iceland in 1986 was found to be pregnant. This makes hybrids extremely important to research and can help us to understand evolutionary and ecological processes.
“Whether ‘true blue’ or a hybrid that happens to look extremely like a blue whale, one thing is clear: this was a rare and special whale”, Williams-Grey continues, “if the whalers mistook him for a fin whale but think their ‘mistake’ is without consequence that tells you everything you need to know about the callousness and ineptitude of this industry.”
Arne Feuerhahn, CEO of Hard to Port, who initially brought the slaughtered whale to public attention, has also cast doubt on the DNA test results and said they are in favour of Havlur hf. owner, Kristján Loftsson. Hvalur hf. has a quota to kill 161 fin whales in 2018, and unfortunately, hybrids are included.
Iceland’s Prime Minister, Katrin Jakobsdottir is now under growing pressure from international media and increased opposition to whaling in her own country and Iceland’s whaling laws are up for review this year.
We need to keep up the pressure and need your help! If you are in central London this Friday, 20 July at 1 pm, please join a peaceful protest outside the Icelandic embassy in Knightsbridge.