Evidence has emerged of grenade-tipped harpoons failing to explode when fired into fin whales by Icelandic whalers in recent hunts.
Graphic images of hunts in the last few days days show fin whales being dragged ashore with the unexploded grenade harpoons still embedded in their flesh. Together with our conservation partner in Iceland, Hard To Port, we are calling on Iceland's fisheries ministers to stop whale hunting immediately so that violations of the Whaling and Animal Welfare Act can be investigated.
In the last 24 hours a pregnant fin whale has also been seen hauled ashore with one harpoon embedded through her right pectoral fin (unexploded) and another into her belly.
The use of the harpoons is cruel enough but at least four fin whales in the past three weeks alone have been documented with unexploded charges lodged in their bodies. Penthrite grenades need to detonate in the thorax, thoracic spine, neck or brain to ensure a quick or instant death of the whale. If the device does not explode, the harpoon cannon usually has to be reloaded for another shot. This takes about eight minutes and significantly prolongs a whale's torment.
‘It is a welfare nightmare’, says WDC anti-whaling campaigner, Vanessa Williams-Grey. ‘If the grenade tip on the end of the harpoon fails to explode, then the whale is not killed instantly which means that he or she suffers in agony for a long period.’
Hard To Port's Arne Feuerhahn says, ‘the shooter of the harpoon ship Hvalur 9 clearly failed to fire a fatal first shot at one whale. A second harpoon penetrated into the back. We must assume that a second shot was necessary to end the long suffering.’
However, according to Feuerhahn, minor wounds were also found on the other side of the same whale, which could have come from a firearm. Whaling ships are equipped with rifles, which are used as a last resort if the whale cannot be killed with a harpoon.
On 4 July, another fin whale was brought to the whaling station with an unexploded harpoon in his or her body. This has been confirmed by the chief veterinarian of the Icelandic Food Authority. The harpoon had hit the whale's skull bone and had therefore not exploded.
‘The fact that whalers are unable to cause a quick death for the whales illustrates the cruelty of industrial whaling,’ says Astrid Fuchs, policy director at Whale and Dolphin Conservation. ‘In fact, there is no humane way to kill such a large creature as a whale at sea. Whilst we experience the dramatic effects of global warming in recent days, we are also witnessing the cruel deaths of ocean giants that are our allies in the fight against climate breakdown.'