Faroe Islands to limit controversial dolphin hunt quota to 500

Bloody images of the dolphin hunt by fishermen on the self-governing islands located in the North Atlantic have caused outrage.

Fishermen on a boat drive pilot whales towards the shore during a hunt on May 29, 2019 in Torshavn, Faroe Islands [File: Andrija Ilic/ AFP]
Fishermen drive pilot whales towards the shore during a hunt on May 29, 2019 in Torshavn, the Faroe Islands [File: Andrija Ilic/ AFP]

The Faroe Islands said it would provisionally limit its controversial dolphin hunt to 500, following public outcry over the practice.

Each year images of the bloody dolphin hunt by fishermen on the self-governing islands located in the North Atlantic make headlines around the world and spark outrage among animal rights activists who consider the practice barbaric.

The new quota of 500 dolphins announced on Sunday follows the “unusually large catch” of 1,423 white-sided dolphins in September last year, the government of the Danish autonomous territory said in a statement.

“An annual catch limit of 500 white-sided dolphins has now been proposed by the Ministry of Fisheries on a provisional basis for 2022 and 2023,” the territory’s fisheries ministry said in a statement. 

“Aspects of that catch [2021] were not satisfactory, in particular the unusually large number of dolphins killed,” the statement noted.

“This made procedures difficult to manage and is unlikely to be a sustainable level of catch on a long-term annual basis,” it added.

A review of the dolphin hunt was launched in February after a petition with almost 1.3 million signatures calling for a ban on the tradition was submitted to the Faroese government.

In the Faroese tradition known as “grindadrap”, or “grind” for short, hunters surround dolphins or pilot whales with a wide semi-circle of fishing boats and drive them into a shallow bay where they are beached. Fishermen on shore slaughter them with knives.

Though sparking regular international outrage, the hunt still enjoys broad backing in the Faroes, where supporters point out that the animals have fed the local population for centuries.

Fishing boats are pictured at the harbur of Leirvik on Eysturoy Island, on October 10, 2021, in the Faroe Islands [Jonathan Nackstrand/ AFP]
Fishing boats are pictured at the harbour of Leirvik on Eysturoy Island in the Faroe Islands [File: Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP]

On Sunday, the government stressed that the catches serve as an “important supplement to the livelihoods of Faroe Islanders”.

“The Government of the Faroe Islands continues to base its policies and management measures on the right and responsibility of the Faroese people to utilise the resources of the sea sustainably. This also includes marine mammals, such as pilot whales and dolphins,” the ministry said in its statement.

Given current stocks, the government said an annual quota of around 825 dolphins would be “well within sustainable limits”, but has recommended 500 as a provisional limit.

The statement added that the ministry was waiting for an opinion from the Scientific Committee of the North Atlantic Marine Mammal Commission, expected by 2024, after which it would review the provisional quota.

The ministry also said it would evaluate the procedures used to drive and kill the dolphins so that it would “be carried out as quickly and efficiently as possible”.

Only the dolphin hunt is currently being reviewed, not the entire “grind” tradition.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies