Historic change in Iceland’s whaling policy

Hard To Port has achieved meaningful change in Iceland’s whaling policy. All fin whaling operations will be monitored and filmed from now on.

Following Hard To Port’s revelations of obvious animal welfare violations during the first weeks of the 2022 hunting season, the government will start taking a closer, more critical look behind the curtain of Hvalur hf.’s activities, at land and out at sea.

A fin whale is being pulled up the slipway of the whaling factory in Iceland.

Two institutions, namely MAST (Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority) and Fiskistofa (Directory of Fisheries) will implement the new regulation in close cooperation.

It is a matter of celebration that these key institutions will cooperate on the inspection. The expertise can be found there, and the data collected will be able to determine whether whaling is legal” – Minister of Food, Fisheries and Agriculture Svandís Svavarsdóttir.

Catcher ship Hvalur 8 leaves Reykjavík harbour for the 2022 hunting season.

Before the new regulation was announced, MAST (Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority) had started an investigation into potential animal welfare violations.

Sigurborgar Daðadóttir, the Chief Veterinarian of MAST, stated that an assessment will be made as to whether whaling complies with Article 27, a law on animal welfare that deals specifically with how hunting should be carried out.

The bodies of two dead fin whales.

Go To Homepage

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.

Go To Homepage

Pregnant fin whale killed by commercial whalers

Two fin whales were landed by catcher ship Hvalur 8 at the whaling station in Hvalfjörður around midday yesterday. An adult female whale had two steel harpoons stuck in its body. One harpoon pierced the right pectoral fin of the animal and had an undetonated grenade still attached. The other harpoon struck the animal in its belly. 

The female animal is pulled up the slipway of the whaling station.
Hvalur hf. CEO looks down on the whale and misfired harpoons.

We have documented another case of an inaccurately fired harpoon during this year’s fin whale hunt. These cases seem to be no exception but quite common. It is also the third documented case of an undetonated penthrite grenade by our team. Without a doubt, this adult female experienced a lot of pain during the long killing process.”says Arne Feuerhahn, CEO of marine conservation organisation Hard To Port.

The adult female was pulled onto the processing deck where Hvalur hf. staff started to remove the grenade from the misfired harpoon.

Two official observers were present during the butchering of the second animal. After some of the meat, the lower jaw, skin and blubber of the animal had been removed, the internal organs of the animal were exposed. The observers showed special interest in the uterus of the adult female fin whale and demanded it to be cut open. An approximately one meter long whale fetus became visible despite efforts to block the unborn calf from the cameras of conservationists. Two younger Hvalur hf. workers were instructed to remove the exposed fin whale fetus. 

One of the harpoons pierced the right pectoral fin of the pregnant whale. The attached penthrite grenade did not explode.
Two observers demand Hvalur hf. staff to cut open one of the uterus horns. An approx. 1 mtr. whale fetus becomes visible.

Judging from the location and impact of the second harpoon, it seems possible that it not only killed the adult female whale but also her unborn calf. This is hard to witness and digest, even for those of us who have documented these activities for quite a while” says Feuerhahn.

I think we have collected enough evidence. There is no doubt that the hunting of these large marine mammals violates existing animal welfare regulations. Our footage speaks for itself and we are willing to provide it to the responsible authorities, if requested.” Feuerhahn concludes. 

The killing of pregnant fin whales in Iceland’s fin whale hunt was first documented and made public by conservation organisations, including Hard To Port, during the 2018 whaling season. The revelation made public and international news. 

Female fin whales usually produce one calf every 2-3 years. Calves are born after approx. 11 months of gestation.

Hvalur hf. staff removes that whale fetus.

Go To Homepage