Tag Archives: Whaling

Sea Shepherd Update: A Tale of Two Grinds

Faroese Whalers: 1 — Sea Shepherd: ???

The occupation of the Faroe Islands by Sea Shepherd has continued throughout the summer. From my perspective, there has been surprisingly little actual conflict. Until August, most of the interactions between the Faroese people and Sea Shepherd were petty, as Faroese people would accuse Sea Shepherd of minor crimes and mischief and share photographs of them driving and sitting around. Sea Shepherd volunteers, for their parts, seemed to be rather bored by the lack of action. To the surprise of many, they didn’t even disrupt Ólavsøka, the Faroese national holiday.

Tjørnuvík

Our photoshoot in Tjørnuvík, which was filmed by Sea Shepherd for unknown purposes.

I myself was filmed by Sea Shepherd activists while taking photographs one day in the sea by Tjørnuvík… which had absolutely nothing to do with whaling. I can’t wait to see this footage show up in some sort of propaganda. I’m genuinely looking forward to it.

In the last month, however, things have really heated up…


July 30th, 2014
Sea Shepherd prevents a possible Grindadráp at Haraldssund

First, there was a pod of pilot whales sighted at Haraldssund on July 30th. Because Haraldsund is not an approved whaling bay and the weather was terrible that night, the decision was made to wait until the morning to decide what to do with the pod.

Even then, some Faroese believed that the decision had more to do with fear of Sea Shepherd than with practical concerns. For example, commenters on Norðlýsið wrote:

Screen Shot 2014-09-05 at 12.51.05 PM
My translation for non-Faroese speakers:

Kristian Olsen: Why not just say it how it is? You don’t dare to take the pod, what a bunch of idiots, it’s an embarrassment to call oneself Faroese these days. 😦
If it isn’t wise to go with small boats, so much the better, because therefore the SS boats can’t go either! And one would easily be able to stop all of the SS people south of the tunnel so they can’t disrupt anything… no, what a shame I say. And there are very many who agree with me about this.

Pauli Steinberg: Kristian, sometimes it’s worth it to use your head. I hope of course that we have many grindadráp this year. But tactically, I think it would be fortunate, so to say, if no grinds happened while the SS people were here. They came here and thought we were barbaric, undeveloped vikings who killed whales with our bare hands. Almost all of them are going back home with completely different thoughts about us. No, I think that we should be kind and hospitable with the SS-ers. The grind which is possibly coming in to Hvannasund should be observed and sent out again, because we are a people who study whales, we are used to doing that. And let the SS-ers go home happy with their weeks in the Faroe Islands. But I also think that the political authorities need to stand up and prevent such people from invading our land.

Ólavur Petersen: It’s a nice thought, Pauli Steinberg, but the only thing that would accomplish is that Sea Shepherd would say, “No whales where (sic) killed in Faroe Islands while we were there,” and if we let this one go, they will be right. To make it so that Sea Shepherd is right is one of the worst things we can do.

Katja Eyð Rafn Kristinnsdóttir: Pauli Steinberg and they will come back again for the next many years with the same thought. So no grind the next 40+ years.

This is Haraldssund, where the grind came on July 30th. The causeway completely blocks the channel between the open ocean and Klaksvík, so the whales could not have been driven in towards a whaling harbor. The possible plan the next day would have been to drive the whales back out towards the sea and around the island of Kunoy (on the left).

This is Haraldssund, where the grind came on July 30th. The causeway completely blocks the channel between the open ocean and Klaksvík, so the whales could not have been driven in towards a whaling harbor. The possible plan the next day would have been to drive the whales back out towards the sea and around the island of Kunoy (on the left).

The official decision was to wait until the next morning for a decision on what to do with the grind… if it hadn’t swum out to open sea on its own by then. But that night, the Sea Shepherd crew took their boats to the scene and chased the pod out into the open sea despite the bad weather. Many commented that it must have been everything they had hoped for — the successful prevention of a grind at dramatic personal risk. Such interference is against Faroese law, and Sea Shepherd was therefore reported to the police.

Livar Nysted, a Faroese ocean-rower and artist, watched most of the situation unfold from the mountains. In an interview with the Faroese media about the incident, Nysted complained that nothing was done to prevent Sea Shepherd from driving the whales to sea, and said it was unbelievable and embarrassing that “70 hippies” could “put us in our place.”

Grind-free seas off the village of Æðuvík. No grindadráp occurred during my two-and-a-half month stay in the Faroe Islands.

Grind-free seas off the village of Æðuvík. No grindadráp occurred during my two-and-a-half month stay in the Faroe Islands.


August 30th, 2014
Grindadráp on Sandoy:
33 Whales Killed, 14 Sea Shepherd Activists Arrested

The showdown both sides were waiting for finally occurred last week. A small grind of 33 whales was sighted, pursued, and slaughtered on Sandoy. The Sea Shepherd volunteers on Sandoy went to the sea to try to prevent the grindadráp and were arrested by Faroese police with help from the Danish navy.

——–

The arrest of 14 Sea Shepherd activists generated a lot of international media coverage. As The Telegraph reports:

“Fourteen animal rights activists have been detained on the Faroe island of Sandoy in the North Atlantic while trying to stop a controversial dolphin hunt, their organisation has said. The activists were detained on Saturday when attempting to save a pod of 33 pilot whales, members of the dolphin family, as the mammals were driven to shore to be killed by waiting hunting parties, according to environmental group Sea Shepherd.

“The 14 have been under arrest since Saturday, and three of our boats have also been seized,” Lamya Essemlali, president of Sea Shepherd France, told AFP.

Large numbers of pilot whales are slaughtered each year on the Faroe Islands, an autonomous territory within the kingdom of Denmark. The method involves the mammals being forced into a bay by flotillas of small boats before being hacked to death with hooks and knives.”

It should be said that the method of killing described by The Telegraph is in direct opposition to how the Faroese say the whales have been killed there for many years. According to their laws and animal welfare regulations, “a regulation spinal lance must be used to sever the spinal cord, which also severs the major blood supply to the brain, ensuring both loss of consciousness and death within seconds. This, in addition to the supplementary use of the traditional whaling knife, if necessary, is the most efficient and humane means of killing beached pilot whales safely, with many participants involved at the same time.” (whaling.fo)

The Faroese say they are continually researching and implementing new technology and methods as they seek the most humane way to kill the pilot whales for their own consumption, and compare their methods to those used in commercial slaughterhouses.

Those further interested can also read Killing Methods and Equipment in the Faroese Pilot Whale Hunt, the English translation of a working paper by Senior Veterinarian, Jústines Olsen, originally presented in Danish at the NAMMCO Workshop on Hunting Methods for Marine Mammals, held in Nuuk, Greenland in February 1999.


A release from the Sea Shepherd organization about the event states:

“Despite being a member nation of the European Union and subject to laws prohibiting the slaughter of cetaceans, Denmark has officially shown its support of — and now direct collaboration with — the Faroese whalers by sending the Danish Navy to defend this archaic, mass slaughter of whales in the Faroe Islands alongside Faroese police.”

Arrest


Update: See what the August 30th, 2014 grindadráp meant for the Faroese people, Sea Shepherd, and others involved in the Faroese whaling controversy.

Advertisements

The Sea Shepherd Grindstop 2014 Invasion

Faroese social media is exploding with commentary about Sea Shepherd's Grindstop 2014 anti-whaling campaign.

Faroese social media is exploding with commentary about Sea Shepherd’s Grindstop 2014 anti-whaling campaign.

The Faroe Islands is being invaded this summer by The Sea Shepherd Conversation Society, which is coming with more than 500 volunteers in an attempt to stop the Grindadráp, or Faroese whale hunt, by “monitoring the 23 grind bays, deterring the dolphins from shore, and taking direct action to intervene against a grind if necessary.” Operation Grindstop 2014 will be the largest land- and sea-based campaign in the organization’s history.

The Grindadráp and Sea Shepherd are both controversial in their own way.

The Grindadráp / Faroese Killing of Pilot Whales

Photo: FaroeIslandsPhoto.com / Kasper Solberg

Photo: FaroeIslandsPhoto.com / Kasper Solberg

The Faroese have hunted pilot whales for hundreds of years, and their meat and blubber formed an invaluable part of their diet in the past, when food was scarce in this remote part of the world. Even today, whale meat and blubber is the Faroese national dish, and the hunt is considered one of the cornerstones of Faroese culture. The main threat to the consumption of pilot whale, as the Faroese see it, are the health effects of the high mercury content in whale meat today.

The pilot whale is not listed as an endangered species (as some anti-whaling activists claim) and the hunt is not considered to be a threat by organizations such as the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the American Cetacean Society, and the North Atlantic Marine Mammal Commission to pose a threat to the species. The IUCN’s Red List listing of the pilot whale says that “the Faroese catch is probably sustainable.”

While some argue that the tradition is outdated and unnecessarily cruel, especially since it involves the killing of such intelligent or otherwise special animals, many Faroese argue that killing whales for food in the grindadráp is as humane, if not more so, than the slaughter of factory-raised animals, which merely has the public relations advantage of taking place behind closed doors so the blood doesn’t disturb the grocery-shopping, meat-eating public.

For more on the grindadráp controversy, please feel free to read Faroe Islander Elin Brimheim Heinesen’s blog post, Why Most Arguments Against Grindadráp Fail, the official Faroese whaling website, this PBS documentary or information directly from highly regarded conservationist groups.

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

Image: seashepherd.org

Image: seashepherd.org

Sea Shepherd is an environmental activist group whose founder, Paul Watson, split off from Greenpeace due to his confrontational tactics. Many people around the world see Sea Shepherd’s members and volunteers as heroes protecting the whales, and they have a large media presence including, in the past, a reality TV show called Whale Wars. Others, however, decry the organization’s disregard for facts and their vigilante actions (they have been called eco-terrorists and faced charges for assault and sabotage, among others).

For more on the Sea Shepherd controversy, you can find many news articles about Paul Watson and the organization, such as this one from The Telegraph.

Grindstop 2014: The Beginning

The Sea Shepherd Grindstop volunteers started arriving in the Faroes last week, provoking a wide range of reactions from Faroe Islanders. Many wish the protestors would not be allowed into the country. Others say that it is important to treat them with respect as visitors, and that, on the bright side, they will be forced to spend money in the islands. There is also a small group of Faroe Islanders who are themselves against the grindadráp, despite the inherent difficulty of going against the established culture in a small community. A Facebook group called “Faroe Islanders against the Grind” counts 104 members.

Faroe Islanders Against the Grind

Faroe Islanders Against the Grind

In comparison, another Facebook group was created about three hours ago to call for banning Sea Shepherd from the Faroe Islands. The group currently has 712 members.

Ban Sea Shepherd

Ban Sea Shepherd

Whatever the attitude, the presence of such a large group is bound to have an impact on the islands this summer. With fewer than 50,000 people living in the Faroe Islands, 500 protestors can be considered the equivalent of 3 million foreign Muslims, Jews and vegetarians invading the United States to demand that Americans stop slaughtering pigs and consuming pork products.

#GrindStop2014, #HotdogStop2015, anyone?

In the first week, not much of note has happened on either side. The Faroese are waging their own anti-SS social media campaign, sharing such critical news stories as photographic evidence of Sea Shepherd volunteers stealing food from a ferry buffet or mocking Sea Shepherd operatives for calling the police when a group of rowdy Faroese came towards one of their boats calling them names one night in the capital.

One satirical Faroese website even went to far as to announce a fake grindadráp, which it said would be held at Vatnsoyrar — the only village that is not on the coastline, but rather on the shores of the largest Faroese lake! The explanation was that in order to avoid Sea Shepherd, they would shoot the whales through a waterfall. I don’t know whether any Sea Shepherd people showed up in Vatnsoyrar, but I did find the link posted to their Grindstop Facebook page by concerned readers.

Fake Grindadráp in Vatnsoyrar

Fake Grindadráp in Vatnsoyrar

Faroese people have also taken to defending themselves and asking questions back at the activists through social media. Oddur Á Lakjuni wrote, “I’m wondering here: The Faroese kill more sheep than they do whales… But there’s not a word of criticism from anywhere. Both are killed for food – although neither is absolutely necessary for survival (and to be honest: which item of food is, when you take it in isolation?)”

The volunteers have been scouting out beaches and appear to be rather bored, if social media updates consisting almost exclusively of volunteers looking out onto the empty sea and videos such as this one are anything to go by:

Mimmy Vágsheyg, a Faroese woman who opened a new cafe in Klaksvík this year, says that anti-whaling advocates have been harassing her online for months, sending her messages filled with graphic images and leaving phony bad reviews on her business listings. Vágsheyg does not serve whale meat at her cafe, but thinks that the group must be indiscriminately targeting Faroese businesses. “I’m just getting started here, I don’t need this!” she said.

Since Sea Shepherd started arriving en masse last week, Vágsheyg says they have come into her cafe to repeatedly check her menus for incriminating items. “I don’t understand why they come every day. Do they think I am hiding the whale?”