Conservationists call for suspension of whaling season

The landing of a female fin whale in the morning hours of July 19 has revealed another case of malfunctioning whaling equipment during this year’s hunting season. One of the whales that was brought to shore by catcher ship Hvalur 9 quickly gained the attention of conservationists who monitor the processing of the large marine mammals at the whaling station in Hvalfjörður.

“This is the second time in two weeks that our team has documented a case of an undetonated harpoon grenade. The gunner of the harpoon ship Hvalur 9 clearly failed to deliver a fatal first shot. A second harpoon penetrated the back of the animal. We have to assume that a second strike was necessary to end the animal’s prolonged suffering,” says Arne Feuerhahn, CEO of marine conservation organisation Hard To Port.

Grenade malfunction on female fin whale
Second harpoon inside whale

“In addition to the visible harpoon strikes, another, much smaller wound above the animal’s right pectoral fin raises questions. At first sight, it appears to be a bullet hole. We will get a second opinion on this before we can draw a conclusion,” Feuerhahn continues.

Hvalur hf. CEO and whaling protagonist Kristján Loftsson inspected the misfired first harpoon himself.

He unscrewed the harpoon grenade in the presence of some of his staff and took it aside.

Penthrite grenades need to detonate in the thorax, thoracic spine, neck or brain to ensure a quick or instant death of the animal.

If the device fails to explode, the harpoon cannon usually needs to be reloaded for an additional shot.

“We are witnessing and documenting obvious and repeated violations of the Animal Welfare Act. Our footage clearly indicates that not all whales are ‘killed quickly and painlessly’ during these hunts. We are calling on the Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture to suspend the hunting season until these cases can be properly investigated.” Feuerhahn states. 

The organisation Hard To Port has documented most of the fin whale landings of the 2022 season and has repeatedly pointed to evidence of irregularities that suggest that the whaling operations do not always comply with existing animal welfare regulations. On 4 July 2022, the first case of a dud grenade was documented and brought to the attention of the public and media. 

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