On Thursday morning, a group of five Northern bottlenose whales became stranded in the shallows around the Faroese island of Suduroy. Normally rescuers would've dashed to the site to return them to the water. Instead, whalers jumped at the opportunity and slaughtered the animals with knives.
The whales were butchered for meat, a process that was captured by conservationists from the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, who have been on the ground in the Faroe Islands to document the pilot whale hunt that usually happens there. There have been no whale slaughters in the time that activists have been monitoring the islands thus far. The hunt normally lasts through the summer. The Faroese consider the hunt a matter of cultural tradition. They do eat some whale meat, though it contains very high levels of mercury. The government recommends that people eat only one meal of whale meat per month.
The slaughter of these whales was shocking - the killing of beached bottlenose whales is legal in the region only if they cannot be rescued and driven back out to sea. Sea Shepherd is investigating whether the animals could've been rescued before they were killed.
"The population of these rather rare Northern bottlenose whales is believed to be no more than 10,000. The loss of any of these vanishing whales is tragic," said Sea Shepherd Founder, Captain Paul Watson. "If they could have been saved, to slaughter these whales in need was the ultimate betrayal and, frankly, nothing short of murder."
While the cause of the strandings is unknown, the possibility of nearby seismic testing driving the whales on shore has been brought up. Testing is currently being conducted between the Shetland and Faroe Islands and has been known to cause marine mammal strandings in the past. See this post for more information on its impact on whales.