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Whale in whaling station Iceland WDC

The Icelandic government’s Food and Veterinary Authority (MAST - the country's expert council on animal welfare) has finished its analysis of the 2023 fin whale hunts, which show a significant number of whales continue to suffer a prolonged and agonising death.

The MAST report comes on the eve of the Icelandic government’s decision whether to allow hunting to begin this season, and it makes for grim reading.

Last year, the fin whale hunts were shut down following a report  into the 2022 hunts that concluded they were unlawful after falling below standards set out in the Icelandic Animal Welfare Act. But information in this year’s report from MAST reveals no significant improvement on the previous year despite the implementation of new regulations.

The new report highlights an Instantaneous Death Rate (IDR) for whales killed in the 2023 season of 71%, with an average Time to Death (TTD) for whales that did not die instantly (excluding convulsing whales) was 14 minutes.

In the 2023 season, 21% of the whales had to be shot twice. In comparison, the 2022 season saw 24% of the whales receiving two or more shots. The difference shows a lack of substantial improvement, with over a fifth of whales shot suffering up to 11 minutes after they were shot again. The longest time to death from the first harpoon strike was 35 minutes.

‘Despite the introduction of new regulations, this report shows that a significant number of whales still suffered a prolonged and agonising death in the 2023 fin whale hunting season’, says WDC’s stop whaling campaigner, Luke McMillan.

‘21% of the whales hunted had to be shot more than once, with one poor individual taking 35 minutes to die, therefore indicating ongoing issues with hunting efficiency and animal welfare. These findings highlight that the regulatory changes, including enhanced equipment requirements and stricter operational protocols, did not bring sufficient improvements, and proves once again that whales cannot be killed humanely at sea.’

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