Following our call for an investigation into violations of the Icelandic Whaling and Animal Welfare Act by fin whale hunters in the country, fisheries minister Svandís Svavarsdóttir, has issued a regulation requiring her officials to begin onboard monitoring of the hunts with immediate effect, a move that could bring them to an end.
Together with our conservation partner in Iceland, Hard To Port, we recently alerted government officials to disturbing evidence of grenade-tipped harpoons failing to explode when fired into fin whales by Icelandic whalers during ongoing hunts.
Article 27 of Iceland’s Animal Welfare Act requires that ‘hunting must always be conducted in a manner that minimises the pain inflicted on the animals and the time needed to kill them’.
Iceland’s Fisheries Ministry (Fiskistofa) will now partner with officials from the Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority (MAST) onboard hunting ships to assess each whale kill is quick and clean (one harpoon aimed at the key areas such as brain or spinal cord). But assessing accuracy and the exact time of death is very difficult when a harpoon is being fired at a moving target from a moving vessel, and so it is almost impossible for the whalers to demonstrate full compliance with the current welfare regulations.
Graphic images obtained by Hard To Port of hunts in the last few days show fin whales being dragged ashore with the unexploded grenade harpoons still embedded in their flesh.
A pregnant fin whale was also documented hauled ashore with one harpoon embedded through her right pectoral fin (unexploded) and another into her belly. Her unborn calf died with her.
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.
Vanessa Williams-Grey, WDC anti-whaling campaigner, commented: 'It is clear that the whalers cannot guarantee to kill each fin whale quickly and cleanly. We congratulate the fisheries minister for taking our welfare concerns seriously and remain hopeful that this marks the beginning of the end of whaling in Icelandic waters.
‘Whilst we experience the dramatic effects of global warming in recent days, we are also witnessing the cruel deaths of gentle ocean giants who are our allies in the fight against climate breakdown.'