Faroe Islands sets dolphin hunting quota, animal welfare advocates say it’s too high

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The sea runs red with blood in a scene from the traditional hunt for pilot whales in the Faroe Islands. Jan Egil Kristiansen/Moment/Getty Images

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In September last year, a record slaughter of 1,428 dolphins in the Faroe Islands shocked and outraged animal lovers locally and around the world.

In response, the Faroese Ministry of Fisheries has proposed a limit of 500 white-sided dolphins for 2022 and 2023, but animal welfare advocates say that number is far too high.

“This announcement by the Faroese government is far-fetched,” said the director of Orca Sally Hamilton said, as reported by The Guardian. “What the Faroe Islands have done is formalize something that was previously not formalized – to sanction the killing when it was never clear before how many dolphins would be killed each year – if any.”

The Faroe Islands are self-governing islands in the North Atlantic that practice a hunting tradition called “grindingor “grind,” in which pilot whales or dolphins are driven to the beach by participants on fishing boats and then killed on shore with knives, according to Al Jazeera. The practice is controversial both locally and worldwide, and the controversy came to a head last year when Sea Shepherd released footage of the slaughter of nearly 1,500 dolphins Nearly 1.3 million people signed a petition to the Faroese government calling for a ban on hunting, and the Faroese government said it would review dolphin hunting in February.

“Aspects of this catch were recognized to be unsatisfactory, in particular the unusually high number of dolphins killed,” the government said when announcing the potential quota. “This has made the procedures difficult to manage and is unlikely to be a sustainable catch level on a long-term annual basis.”

The government also said it believed its people had the right “to use the resources of the sea in a sustainable way”, including marine mammals like pilot whales and dolphins. He argued that since there are around 80,000 white-sided dolphins in the Faroe Islands, a catch of around 825 per year would be sustainable. In practice, hunters have killed about 260 per year.

The advocacy group Stop the grind argued that the suggested quota was insufficient for three reasons:

  1. This does not include pilot whales, which are technically dolphins and also a hunting target.
  2. Because the quota is higher than the average number of dolphins killed, it is not put in place to reduce the number of deaths.
  3. There are no repercussions if the quota is exceeded.

“The adoption of a quota is meaningless without effective governance and a demonstrated reduction in the number of dolphins and whales killed by the Faroes each year,” the group wrote.

Orca’s head of partnerships Steve Jones also argued that white-sided dolphins were not part of traditional hunting in the same way as pilot whales, according to The Guardian. In fact, 83% of Faroese residents support pilot whale hunting, but 53% are against hunting white-sided dolphins, according to a poll taken after last year’s killings.

“To establish a quota is to formalize a hunt that did not previously exist as a traditional hunt, and which surveys have shown the Faroe Islands do not want,” Jones said. “It’s a worrying trend towards hunting that is unsustainable. There is no market for white-sided dolphin meat.

The government began collecting public comments on its proposal on July 8 and hopes to implement it by July 25.

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