Whaling season is back in the Faroe Islands amid coronavirus concerns

Fishermen on a boat drive pilot whales towards the shore during a hunt on May 29, 2019 in Torshavn, Faroe Islands
Fishermen on a boat drive pilot whales towards the shore during a hunt on May 29, 2019 in Torshavn, Faroe Islands Copyright ANDRIJA ILIC / AFP
By Alessio Dell'Anna with AFP
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The government urged fishermen to avoid large gatherings, as the local whaling practice requires multiple boats to trap the animals, before the hunters physically enter the water to kill them with knives.


Nearly 300 animals were killed in the Faroe Islands this week after whaling season was opened despite coronavirus restrictions, an environmental NGO has said.

It comes after fishing ministry Jacob Vestergaard authorised the start of the season, warning at the same time to avoid large gatherings, amid concerns about fishermen being able to maintain social distancing.

The self-governed Danish territory in the North-Atlantic has had 188 COVID-19 cases and no deaths, and has been testing all people travelling in the country from abroad since June 27.

Around 250 pilot whales and 35 white-sided dolphins were caught on Wednesday evening (July 15) near Hvalba, a village of 700 people on Suduroy, the southernmost island of the archipelago.

This is according to environmental Sea Shepherd, an NGO who has called for this "barbaric practice" to end and already managed to disrupt the practice in the past.

In the ancient Faroese summer tradition of the "Grind", or "Grindadràp", fishermen surround the animals with boats and trap them into a bay, before entering the water up to the waist to kill them with knives.

The Faroese government defends the whaling practice in the country, claiming it's "sustainable" and "regulated".

"The Faroese hunt on average 800 pilot whales annually", on a local population "of approximately 100,000", according to the authorities, who also stress pilot whales are not an endangered species, and their hunt is not "a festival", but a way to provide food to the local community,

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