Whaling station workers remove a harpoon with a failed penthrite grenade

Grenade malfunction confirms animal welfare concerns

The landing of a female fin whale in the afternoon of July 4th has confirmed concerns about animal welfare violations during Iceland’s whale hunt. 

One of the two animals that were caught by Hvalur 9 had a harpoon visibly stuck in its side. The harpoon with a malfunctioned penthrite grenade was quickly removed by workers of the whaling station. 

“The penthrite grenade is meant to detonate deep inside the animal to ensure an instantaneous death of the whale. Today’s documented case confirms that these devices seem to be unreliable. The TTD (Time to death) for this animal remains uncertain. A malfunctioned grenade rules out a quick death of the animal – it most likely went through a lot of suffering” says Arne Feuerhahn, CEO of marine conservation organisation Hard To Port. 

Penthrite grenades were developed to replace black powder grenades and were first used in Norway’s minke whale hunt. Later they were also introduced to Iceland’s fin whale hunt. 

Two dead female fin whales from 4th July 2022 lie in the water next to the whaling station in Hvalfjörður.
Icelandic whale catcher ship Hvalur 9 approaches the whaling station in Hvalfjörður with two female fin whales tied to its starboard side.

A study on the killing efficiency in the Icelandic fin whale hunt (2015) describes the effect of the explosive material as follows:

Penthrite has proven to be very efficient to render whales unconscious and/or dead almost instantly by producing pulses of shockand pressure waves that travel spherical (in all directions) at hypersonic speed causing severe damage to vital organs.”

 “We are only two weeks into the 2022 whaling season, which started on 22nd of June, and we have already witnessed and documented animals who had been harpooned twice, whales with their heads pierced by a harpoon and now this case of a dud grenade. How many whales have to suffer until the Icelandic government takes a closer look into these obvious animal welfare offenses?” Feuerhahn continues. 

“It seems commercial whalers here in Iceland get a free pass to everything. I would like to ask the Minister of Food, Fisheries and Agriculture Svandís Svavarsdóttir to monitor these operations and put them under scrutiny. Whales fascinate thousands of visitors here in Iceland, their presence secures lots of jobs and contributes to a thriving and profitable tourism sector. These animals need to be given some respect” Feuerhahn concludes. 

After the whale was processed in a several hour long procedure, the second animal followed in the late evening. 

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