(ANIMAL ACTIVISM/OCEAN CONSERVATION) Since 1983, the anti-whaling group Sea Shepherd has been fighting to stop whale and dolphin Grind hunting in the Faroe Islands—also referred to as the Taiji of the North—and now they’re ready for their next battle with their summer launch of “Operation GrindStop 2014.” For those unfamiliar with the term, a Grind is when small fishing boats surround a pod of whales or dolphins and drive them into the bay. The pod is then beached and left defenseless while men savagely plunge blades into the whales and dolphins until they die. This cruel “sport“ has been around since 1584 but not because it’s done for profit, or even to feed a starving community—the Faroe Islanders have one of the highest standards of living in the world. Grind hunting seems to persist today simply because it’s considered “traditional Viking fun.” Read below for more on Operation GrindStop and see how you can help Sea Shepherd stop these brutal massacres. — Global Animal
The Academy Award winning film The Cove turned the international spotlight on the bloody carnage of dolphins screaming in a bay filled with their own blood as Japanese fishermen speared them. On the edge of North-West Europe there are also regular drive hunts of whales and dolphins just as needless but arguably more barbaric and even more merciless in our very own ‘Taiji of the North’ –The Faroe Islands.
It is around the coastline of the Faroe Islands (about 655 kilometres off the coast of Northern Europe and the islands closest neighbours being the Northern and Western Isles of Scotland) that the slaughter of entire pods of small cetaceans takes place – not usually done for profit, not for the capture of small cetaceans for entertainment at those despicable dolphinariums, certainly not required to feed a ‘starving subsistence hunting community’ as the Faroese have a nominal GDP (per capita) of $50,300 and a human development index of 0.95 classed as ‘very high’ the Faroe Islanders have one of the highest standards of living in the world – but these medieval Grind hunts still happen today because it seems to be considered ‘traditional Viking fun’ by many of the Ferocious Islanders.
Sea Shepherd has been leading the opposition against the slaughter of whales and dolphins in the Faroe Islands since the summer of 1983 when David McColl from Glasgow, Scotland led a small crew to the Faroes and using inflatable boats managed to disrupt a Grind hunt. This was our first intervention and the inflatable boats were heavily damaged by the whale killers.
The Sea Shepherd II sailed there for the first ship based campaign in 1985, then sailing again in 1986 to document and obstruct the Faeroese pilot whale hunt. During that campaign five Sea Shepherd crewmembers were arrested on land and were held without charge, so the Sea Shepherd II refused to leave Faroese waters. The Faroese responded by attacking with bullets and tear gas so the crew of the Sea Shepherd II defended our ship with water cannon shots of chocolate and lemon pie-filling. The Sea Shepherd IIescaped with documentation of Faroese whaling activities and the dramatic incidents were filmed and aired in a BBC produced award-winning documentary entitled ‘Black Harvest’. Additional footage was also used for the UK television documentary series ‘Defenders of Wildlife’ in an episode about Paul Watson and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society called ‘Ocean Warrior’ aired in 1993.
In 2000, Sea Shepherd’s ship Ocean Warrior sailed to the Faroe Islands and the Grind hunts were featured heavily as a consequence in the European media. Sea Shepherd brought economic pressure to bear against those companies still purchasing seafood from the Faroes and as a result – over 20,000 European retail outlets terminated their Faeroese fish contracts.
During the summer of 2010, Sea Shepherd launched Operation GrindStop (after which the new campaign is named). Sea Shepherd’s Peter Hammarstedt went undercover to the Faroe Islands to gather evidence of the gruesome “Grind” hunt in Klaksvik, this was followed two weeks later by Sea Shepherd’s Undercover Operative Sofia Jonsson documenting and exposing the Grind at Leynar. A massive, secret underwater pilot whale corpse dumping site was first discovered during this campaign. Sea Shepherd also sent the ‘Golfo Azzurro’which completed a month of covert coastal surveillance patrols before being discovered, boarded and searched by Faroese police, then followed for the duration of the campaign by the Danish Navy (at great expense to Denmark’s Taxpayers).
In 2011 during ‘Operation Ferocious Isles’ – not a single whale or dolphin was killed on the beaches of the Faroe Islands while Sea Shepherd patrolled. Sea Shepherd’s crew aboard the fast interceptor vessel Brigitte Bardot sent divers to investigate the underwater graveyard where pilot whale carcasses are discarded over the coastal cliffs from Grind hunts held at Vestmanna and Leynar. Operation Ferocious Isles was chronicled in a five-episode series on Animal Planet called “Whale Wars: Viking Shores” (2012).
In 2012, Sea Shepherd reported Denmark to be in violation of three conventions it has signed whereby it vowed to do everything within its capacity to protect pilot whales — the Bern Convention, Bonn Convention and ASCOBANS. As a result, Sea Shepherd continues to pursue the matter with the European Commission in order to compel Denmark to abide by the obligations contained in these conventions and act to uphold the principles outlined therein.
Following the success of these previous campaigns and spurred on by the continuing atrocities against cetaceans committed by the Faroe Islands this year where 1136 small cetacean lives have been destroyed during just a 38 days period including wiping out a pod of 430 Atlantic White-Sided Dolphins . Sea Shepherd is leading a new campaign to these ‘Ferocious Isles’ and planning has already started for the most wide ranging, determined and longest duration Faroe Islands campaign in Sea Shepherd’s history – Operation GRINDSTOP 2014. This campaign is being initiated by Robert Read – Environmental Scientist & Director at Sea Shepherd UK.
Grind hunts have been around since at least the year 1584 (when records started of such hunts) and it is just as cruel today as it was when the Grind first began. A Grind hunt starts when fishing boats or ferries offshore sight a pod of Pilot Whales or Dolphins which soon after, much like in Taiji in Japan, the pod is driven into a bay with smaller fishing boats, private motor boats and even jet skis. However, when confronting the Faroese Grind we have 23 different Grind ‘coves’ around the many islands in the Faroese archipelago where a cetacean massacre could potentially take place, as opposed to just the one cove in Taiji, Japan…making it all the more difficult to anticipate where the killings will occur or to get there in time to intervene and prevent the slaughter.
Once the pod is driven into a designated Grind bay, every soul in the pod is driven onto the beach or pulled up with ropes into the shallows using a blunt hook (called a soknargul) in their blowhole. Faroese men plunge blades into the whales’ bodies until each cetacean’s spinal cord is severed, rarely on the first attempt and more often it takes several minutes for the whale or dolphin to die. The pursuit and beaching of the animals is extremely stressful (in the UK and Europe the harassment of dolphins and whales is a crime in itself) and the killing looks just like what it actually is – a frenzied massacre or the innocents. The Faroese citizens who take part and rush into the water to join in the slaughter do not spare any lives – mothers, babies, pregnant females – the entire cetacean family is killed and the waters of the Grind bays turn blood red for hours.
The 23 Grind bays are assigned to six whaling districts across the Faroe Islands, within which the meat and blubber is supposed to be (according to the Faroese Government) divided among local residents as a not-for-profit community scheme. However, as Sea Shepherd has previously exposed, some of the whale meat ends up in restaurants for consumption by tourists. In recent years, Faroese officials have warned individuals such as women of child-bearing age and children should not eat the meat, as it is laden with mercury, PCBs, dioxins and DDT derivatives and is therefore not safe for human consumption. As a result, after large Grinds have taken place Sea Shepherd believes much of the meat and the carcasses are distributed to businesses for profit or discarded back into the ocean after the slaughter further compounding the environmental and moral tragedy that is the Grindadrap (which translates as ‘Pilot Whale Slaughter’).
Pilot whales are classified as “strictly protected” under the Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats. By allowing the slaughter to continue in the Faeroes, Denmark fails to abide by its obligations as a signatory of the Convention.
For Operation GrindStop 2014, Sea Shepherd will employ a range of direct and indirect tactics to bring an end to the Grindadrap:
- One of Sea Shepherd’s objectives is to use education and use the global media to generate publicity and awareness of the plight of dolphins and whales around the Faroe Islands.
- Sea Shepherd will engage with the Danish government as a means to provide a foundation for legally calling Denmark to task for providing EU subsidies and loans to the Faroe Islands who openly flaunt European laws which protect cetaceans. Any country who wants to join the EU are not allowed to kill whales or dolphins, so the Faeroes should not be able to benefit from EU subsidies or loans from Denmark. The campaign crew will also use public pressure to influence the belligerent Danish Government – we cannot allow them to turn a blind eye to the slaughter around their own islands!
- Sea Shepherd’s Operation GrindStop 2014 has already been joined by an internationally known film and television celebrity (to be announced soon) for the forthcoming campaign and we will seek to include celebrities as Sea Shepherd crew while we patrol the Faroe Islands. Sea Shepherd is also working on gaining direct support from members of the European Parliament.
- Sea Shepherd will use deterrent patrols on land and by sea…and if required will employ non-violent interventionist tactics to prevent any Grind from occurring.
- Sea Shepherd is researching the latest active acoustical devices to create a defensive wall of sound to deter migrating small cetaceans from approaching Grind bays around the islands.
- Plan for land based operations in the Faroe Islands which will combine investigative and education work by our activists. Should our shore crew be unfortunate enough to have to document and report on any Grinds they will follow the trail of where the cetacean meat/blubber/carcasses are taken or disposed of.
- Sea Shepherd will be present in force during the peak Grind hunt months (July to September approximately dependant on predicted annual sea temperature variations and food sources affecting Pilot Whale and Dolphin migration/feeding routes). Sea Shepherd will also have unannounced teams working on the ground on the Faroe Islands at other times of the year.
- Sea Shepherd is already working on identifying the Faroese fishing boats participating in recent Grind hunts (as we will for any future grinds). Sea Shepherd will use these vessel details to publicly ‘name & shame’ and to target those specific vessel owners by giving this information to UK/EU traders, stores & supermarkets and seek to have them blacklisted as whale and dolphin killing boats so they lose any contracts to supply fish. We believe that no European businesses will wish (or risk) to be associated with the hunting of Whales and Dolphins.
- Set up a dedicated volunteer team to publicise Grind news to the Global media.
- Challenge the Faroese claims of being ‘nature lovers’ and their claims of ‘sustainability’ in regards to their abuse of wildlife for commercial profits and backward ‘traditional’ sport. This is also demonstrated by the well publicised Faroese overfishing and self appointed quotas (how many times have we heard that from profiteering poachers!) which has resulted in the EU imposing some sanctions on the Faroese fishing industry.
- Publicise the cetacean meat contamination issues further and seek to discuss this issue with the Faroe Islanders. The Faroe Island’s own Chief Physician Pál Weihe and Chief Medical Officer Høgni Debes Joensen issued a joint press statement in which they announced that pilot whale blubber and meat is contaminated with dangerously high levels of mercury, PCBs, DDE (a by-product of the hazardous insecticide DDT). The high levels of toxins in the whales’ meat and blubber have been linked to serious health threats, such as increased incidents of Parkinson’s disease in adults, damage to foetal neural development and impaired immunity in children. The authors also concluded in their report that “pilot whales today contain contaminants to a degree that neither meat nor blubber would comply with current limits for acceptable concentrations of toxic contaminants” and recommended that “pilot whales no longer used for human consumption” – advice the Faroese Government has ignored since they have not placed a ban on eating Pilot Whales (which would have ended the Grind hunts). Faroese children have higher levels of poisonous mercury in their bodies than any other people on the planet and the Faroese government are therefore negligent in their care for their own people by not banning a ‘product’ which is known to be toxic.
- Work on ways to turn the Faroese Tourism Industry against the Grind hunts. Tourists do not go to the islands to watch islanders hacking at dolphins and blood on the beaches.
- Publicise globally the lesser well known Faroese killing of other species other than Pilot whales (which the Faroese government only defends on their website). This year 430 Atlantic white sided dolphins were killed in a single Grind hunt – and for this reason the logo for Operation GrindStop 2014 features both a Pilot Whale and a Dolphin.
- Sea Shepherd will discredit the new Faroese Grind hunt licensing/training scheme (being launched in 2014) as it is little more than a ‘publicity smokescreen’ to make the Grinds seem more ‘humane’ and ‘regulated’.
Sea Shepherd and Operation GrindStop 2014 are not Anti-Faroese…..we are not ‘Anti’ any nationality. We are Pro-Ocean and we work in the interests of all life on Earth. Our mission is to end the destruction of habitat and slaughter of wildlife in the world’s oceans in order to conserve and protect ecosystems and species. Sea Shepherd operates outside the petty cultural chauvinism of the human species. Our clients are whales, dolphins, seals, sharks, turtles, sea-birds, and fish.
Sea Shepherd welcomes assistance from – or dialogue with any resident of the Faroe Islands.
Operation GrindStop 2014 has a single aim – To ensure that no Pilot Whales, Atlantic White-Sided Dolphins or any other small cetaceans are killed in the barbaric drive hunts known as the ‘Grind’ or ‘Grindadrap’ while Sea Shepherd patrols the Faroe Islands.