164 Pilot Whales and 8 Atlantic White-sided Dolphins were Butchered in the Faroe Islands on the Second Grind Day of 2017

Long-finned pilot whales in the Faroes

On June 16, around 12:45 local time, a pod of pilot whales – Grindahvalur in Faroese – estimated to number 150 to 200 sentient, social, intelligent individuals were discovered east of Nólsoy, an island just outside of the Faroese capital, Tórshavn.


Nólsoy is the only settlement on the island of the same name, lying on a narrow isthmus. It takes 20 minutes to reach Nólsoy from Tórshavn by ferry. On 22 July 1732, fifty-eight pilot whales were killed at Nólsoy and on 29 July 1817, twenty-six pilot whales lost their lives there. The last recorded grind on the island took place on 23 June 1969 with thirty-six pilot whales killed. The town is not a recognized whaling bay and never was officially authorized.

Nólsoy hasn’t facilitated a grind since the 1960s because the ferry and small boats port construction made beaching pilot whales, at least in that location, impossible.

The nearby Faroese capital of Tórshavn was thus the logical choice for the slaughter on June 16, although in the past that beach was avoided during the summer months to keep the bloodshed out of sight of the many tourists visiting the town.

Tórshavn's killing beach DSC_4591
Sandáger∂i, Tórshavn’s killing beach

Initially the hunters experienced some difficulties in driving the pilot whales, but when more boats arrived on the scene things went quickly. The drive took approximately one hour and 45 minutes. The government fisheries patrol vessel, Brimil, unlike the Danish navy ships manned by a Faroese crew, was eagerly present as it regularly is during a cetacean bloodbath.

The whales were forced-stranded at Sandágerði, the beach below the capital’s mint-green hospital, at around 14:30. The actual killing took another 20 minutes. Many people came to observe butchering, including tourists, as the grind is as much a spectator as a participator bloodsport, not unlike ‘la matanza’ – the tuna massacre in Sicily – or a bullfight.

Since 1998 outsiders, tourists and guests, no longer received a share, unless they actually participated. Outsider participation was discontinued completely by 2014 as part of new regulations to ban protesters and interventionists from the killing beaches.

Torshavn whaling beach from sea
Sandáger∂i seen from the sea

Sandágerdi was already mentioned in the 1832 pilot whaling legislation – the first official one, before that the grind was conducted by custom – as a whaling bay, but most likely then the inlets more central in the city were used and not the current small bay below the hospital that is the only sandy beach still available in the rapidly expanding capital of the Faroe Islands.

Almost two years go, on 23 June 2015, 142 pilot whales were the last killed there up til now; the last hunt before that one took place on November 22, 2011 in which 81 pilot whales died.

With almost 6% of the grinds (100+) and nearly 5.5% of all whales killed (close to 14,000), Tórshavn ranks 7th in the overall kill list. The first recorded grind in Tórshavn was on 2 September 1705.

View over Tórshavn with the killing beach behind the green building just right of the center of the photo DSC_4589
A view over Tórshavn with slightly right of center the mint-green hospital building where the Faroese capital’s slaughter beach is located

One of the most important defenses of the grind is that it represents a community sharing tradition, a free distribution of the meat and blubber among the entire population of the Faroe Islands. As so many of the grind justifications this one too represents an elaborate lie. It is true that in the old days shares would go to the old and sick and local inhabitants, but a large part of the catch would be usurped by landowners, including the foreign king and the church. Their shares would be auctioned off and part of the catch would be rendered into oil for commercial sale.

Today with a population that has surpassed the 50,000 mark, there are rarely enough pilot whales to go around, certainly in a town the size of Tórshavn. The spoils are divided among the participants, a relatively small group of dedicated killers, as was the case on the 16th of June.

Only on the southern islands of Sandoy and Suðuroy, is the catch still distributed among the local residents regardless of who participated in the hunt.

After the Tórshavn grind was over, a pod of 8 Atlantic white-sided dolphins – Hvítskjórutir springarar in Faroese – were spotted by a boat returning from the grind at Sandagerði.

That besides the long history of killing entire pods of long-finned pilot whales, the Faroese also slaughter large families of smaller dolphin species, is an uneasy subject in the islands and less known abroad. The two main publications in English on the subject of the drive hunt, Dorete Bloch’s ‘Pilot whales and the whale drive’ from 2007 and Joan Pauli Joensen’s 2009 ‘Pilot whaling in the Faroe Islands’, completely ignore the subject of other dolphin species that are driven into the bays and butchered on the beaches of these islands.

Some of the locals are in complete denial and refute that dolphins are being killed at all; others maintain it is rare and only happens to dolphins that beach themselves and are thus put out of their misery and fully utilized for food.

Others again, follow the line of the publication ‘Marine Mammals in Faroese Waters‘, that basically blames the deaths of these smaller dolphin species on their habit of mingling with pilot whales:

“The bottlenose dolphin is the third species that often mixes with pilot whales and, thus, this species is also occasionally harvested.”

Of course all of these assertions are lies. As in Taiji, Japan, dolphins in the Faroe Islands are specifically targeted, driven in and killed.

In a 2014 press release from the Faroese Prime Minister’s Office titled: “Sea Shepherd activists arrested for disturbing a group of dolphins near Tórshavn” the Faroese government hesitantly admits that much when referring to the Atlantic white-sided dolphins that Sea Shepherd’s RIB ‘Spitfire’ escorted away from the deadly beaches:

“Individual animals occasionally occur together with schools of pilot whales, while separate schools are also sometimes driven and beached…”

‘Sometimes’ doesn’t really apply to the persistent massacring of Atlantic white-sided dolphins in the Faroe Islands.

Hvalba's killing beach DSC_4554
The whaling bay of Hvalba

On August 13, 2013, an incredible 430 Atlantic white-sided dolphins were massacred in Hvalba, on the southern island of Suðuroy. The same village killed fourteen individuals on August 30, 2010. In 2009, on August 22, a family of one hundred was killed in Øravik on the same island.

Oravik whaling bay IMG_2688
The whaling bay of Øravik

According to the national whaling statistics of the Føroya Náttúrugripasavn, between 1872 and 2009, 9403 Atlantic white‐sided dolphins were killed; an annual average of around 68.

There is not much evidence to prove that the slaughter of smaller dolphins should be labeled ‘an ancient tradition’. The IUCN, the organization that assesses wildlife for the red list of threatened species, has this to say about the dolphin killing in the Faroe Islands:

“No assessment is associated with the Faroese hunting of white-sided dolphins, but there is no evidence that this aspect of the drive fishery has a long history, such as that of the pilot whale component (Reeves et al. 2003).”

Hunting these faster species would have been difficult in any case before the era of motorized boats.

The mentioned 2014 press release from the Faroese Prime Minister’s Office parrots the propagandist whaling.fo website by claiming:

“White-sided dolphins are a commonly occurring and abundant species around the Faroe Islands and as such they are not protected.”


“In addition to white-sided dolphins, bottlenose dolphins and harbour porpoises are also common in Faroese waters, and may be caught for food…”

‘Abundant’ and ‘common’ are the whale killers’ favorite words after ‘sustainable’.

The 8 Atlantic white-sided dolphins were driven to Skálafirði (or Skálafjørður) and butchered. There too a crowd of around 35 people gathered to witness the killing.

Danish navy in the Faroes
The Danish navy in Skálafjør∂ur

Skálafjørður, also known as Kongshavn (King’s harbour) is the largest fjord in Eysturoy and the Faroe Islands. The village of Skálafjørður, also referred to as Skálabotnur, lies at the bottom of the inlet. The village was founded in the beginning of the 17th century but excavations have shown that buildings were built there before that. It now has around 100 inhabitants. The flat area at the bottom of the inlet forms a relatively large beach.

Skálafjør∂ur is the second entry in the historic list of grinds and probably the first registered real drive. The date is only given as the year 1588, with a kill number of 115 pilot whales. The number of animals killed might be the reason this grind lived on in memory as not until 1615, a larger pilot whale slaughter was recorded.

The next time Skálafjør∂ur is mentioned is on 8 August 1623, with 30 pilot whales killed. August 27, 1715 is next with another 30 pilot whales; eleven pilot whales were killed in 1718, three in 1720, twelve in 1724, forty-nine in 1725 and five in 1726. After that Skálafjør∂ur is not mentioned until December 1803 when fifty-four pilot whales died. One is killed in 1818, thirty-four in 1823, three in 1826 and thirty-four in 1827. Then there is another long break until July 1938 when thirty-one pilot whales die in this location. After that Skálafjør∂ur does not return in this long list of cetacean suffering.

The bay is entered in the north from Tangafjør∂ur before it changes into Sundini. It is very developed with drilling rigs and navy ships docked or anchored. Skálafjørður also produces fry. The fry is grown for 1½ to 2 years after which they are placed in sea farms where they’ll grow into fish large enough for slaughtering.

In 2015 there was a renewed interest of people who wanted Skálafjørður to be recognized as a whaling bay. Late June 2016 it was announced that Skálabotnur was among three newly added whaling bays in the revised regulation. It took effect in August of that year. Borðoyavík – ‘Klaksvík-South’ – and Kollafjørður – part of the Tórshavn Kommuna and located 20 kilometers north of Tórshavn by road – were the other two new whaling bays added to the revised regulation.

The additions show the determination of part of the Faroese population and their nationalistic government to desperately cling to an outdated and despised, inhumane practice.


In Dutch: https://www.animalstoday.nl/erwin-vermeulen-172-walvisachtigen-op-1-dag-afgeslacht/











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