A whale of a problem
THEY shot her with an exploding harpoon, hacked her foetus out her belly and trashed the unborn baby.
VISUALS of a heavily pregnant fin whale brutally killed and her unborn baby ripped from her body has caused shockwaves among animal activists across the world. The images were captured by antiwhaling groups in Iceland. They show 75-year-old millionaire Kristjan Loftsson’s whaling operation, Hvalur, butchering a female believed to be a rare blue and fin whale hybrid. It’s understood she was just one of 125 endangered fin whales Icelandic Loftsson killed this year. The fin whale is a marine mammal belonging to the parvorder of baleen whales. It is the second-largest species on Earth after the blue whale. The largest reportedly grow to 27.3 metres long with a maximum confirmed length of 25.9 metres, a maximum recorded weight of nearly 74 tonnes, and a maximum estimated weight of around
114 tonnes. American naturalist Roy Chapman Andrews called the fin whale ‘the greyhound of the sea’ for its beautiful, slender body is built like a racing yacht and the animal can surpass the speed of the fastest ocean steamship. Like all other large whales, the fin whale was heavily hunted during the 20th century. As a result, it is an endangered species. Over 725 000 fin whales were reportedly taken from the Southern Hemisphere between 1905 and 1976; as of 1997 only 38 000 survived. Recovery of the overall population size of southern species is predicted to be at less than 50 percent of its pre-whaling state by 2100 due to heavier impacts of whaling and slower recovery rates. The International Whaling Commission (IWC) issued a moratorium on commercial hunting of this whale, although Iceland and
Japan have resumed hunting. The species is also hunted by Greenlanders under the IWC’s Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling provisions. Global population estimates range from less than 100 000 to roughly 119 000. There is no debate that Fin whales are aweinspiring – capable of communicating through song, feeling love and deep
Sigursteinn emotional suffering. According
Masson to online petitions, Loftsson is the last man on the planet still slaughtering these gentle giants for profit, with many of them pregnant when slaughtered. Currently, Iceland’s new government is considering ending whaling, but they could face a mountain of backlash from the tycoon and his whaling lobby.
Loftsson’s boats hunt with explosive-tipped harpoons. The charge is designed to go off inside the animal’s body. Sometimes, a second shot is needed. The dead whale is then secured to
Kristjan the ship and taken to Iceland’s
Loftsson only whaling station, where it’s sliced up for meat. Most of it is destined for Japan.
This year, the hunting season targeting fin whales began in early June. Hvalur was permitted to kill roughly 200 fin whales (numbers vary from 166 to 240 with an exact figure not determined) by the end of the season in September. At the time of going to press it was unknown as to how many they had slaughtered but experts claimed it was just under 100. What has caused outrage is the death of the specific rare blue and fin whale hybrid. Other whale species can occasionally get caught up in the company’s metaphorical nets, and this what allegedly happened with the hybrid.
Loftsson apparently admitted to a media outlet that the hybrid was the fourth of its kind his company had ‘accidently’ netted and killed. He implied these unintentional kills amount to collateral damage, saying it’s tricky to identify whales during a hunt. He also said it’s impossible to know whether a whale is pregnant and that pregnant whales must be good news for the whale stock. “If we hunted here during a whole summer season and we got no foetuses then there would be something wrong,” he said. Another media outlet, however, said
Loftsson denied that they had netted the rare whale, claiming Sea Shepherd UK – an international non-profit, marine wildlife conservation organisation – had ‘Photoshopped’ the image. Sea Shepherd responded by saying the images had in no way been altered. DNA evidence carried out at Iceland’s Marine Research Institute have confirmed that the whale was the offspring of a female blue whale and a male fin whale.
Sigursteinn Masson, the Icelandic representative for the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), said the hybrid’s death reinforces the fact that it is difficult for whalers at sea to identify which species they are actually pursuing. The result is that a rare and protected species ultimately suffers the collateral damage resulting from an unnecessary and culturally unpopular hunt.
Ocean campaigns leader Clare Perry says: “It‘s unfathomable that a country so well known for its nature tourism is tarnishing its image by allowing commercial whaling to continue.”