An animal welfare nightmare

The marine conservation organization Hard To Port has documented the landing of an adult fin whale yesterday, whose body had been hit by four harpoon shots. 

In the early morning hours of August 1st, catcher ship Hvalur 8 arrived with two fin whales tied to its starboard side at the whaling station in Hvalfjörður. The second animal in line for butchering, an adult male, quickly gained the attention of Hard To Port’s CEO Arne Feuerhahn. 

An adult male fin whale is pulled up the slipway with three visible harpoon shots to its body. A fourth harpoon was exposed during the butchering process.

Once this animal had been pulled out of the water, I documented a disturbing novelty in this year’s fin whale hunt, which my organization has monitored closely. This particular whale had three, mostly inaccurately fired harpoons, stuck in its body. One of the steel harpoons was heavily deformed – I assume this whale fought back for quite a while.” says Feuerhahn

Hvalur hf. staff members looked visibly irritated at the multiple harpoon strikes, before they started the flensing. Approximately half an hour into the process, a fourth harpoon emerged from the meat of the whale. It was later removed together with the internal organs.

A male fin whale lies on the processing deck of the whaling factory while Hvalur hf. staff start butchering the animal.
A Hvalur hf. staff member removes the first out of four harpoons from the body of the adult fin whale.

If we look at a previous study on the killing efficiency in the Icelandic fin whale hunt, which states that the average re-loading time for a 90 mm Kongsberg harpoon cannon is about 8 minutes , it gives us the sad certainty about the long and painful struggle this sentient animal had to go through.

The act on animal welfare states ‘that hunting must always be conducted in a manner that minimises the pain inflicted on the animals and the time needed to kill them‘ , the crew of the Hvalur 8 is doing the complete opposite. Feuerhahn continues.

As the animal was slowly cut apart in a several hour long process, two undetonated penthrite grenades became visible. A Hvalur hf. staff member used a special wrench to loosen the grenades and unscrewed both of the devices by hand afterwards. Both grenades were taken away by the worker. 

The marine conservation organization Hard To Port has documented several cases of mis- or inaccurately fired harpoons since the season started in mid-June. A number of malfunctioned penthrite grenades have also been revealed by the non-profit organisation. 

This new disturbing event emphasizes the importance of monitoring these hunts at sea, where they happen. If the company Hvalur hf. can not meet basic animal welfare standards during their hunts, which they obviously can’t, then they shouldn’t hold a license.” Feuerhahn concludes.

During the butchering process of an adult male fin whale a fourth harpoon was exposed after removing the internal organs.
This harpoon still had the undetonated penthrite grenade attached to it.
Workers remove the undetonated penthrite grenade from the harpoon and carry it away.

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