Passengers on board a cruise off the coast of the Faroe Islands were subjected to a "horrifying sight" of a local whale hunt that resulted in the slaughtering of 78 pilot whales.
Conservationists with ORCA first reported the sighting and Ambassador Cruise Line confirmed the incident. ORCA claimed that locals were "flaunting the hunt."
ORCA said that passengers could see a flotilla of over 40 boats herding the pilot whales as about 150 people hauled the whales on shore to slaughter them. ORCA estimated that nine tiny calves were among those slaughtered.
“It defies belief that the Faroese authorities allowed this activity to take place in clear sight of a cruise ship packed with passengers sitting in dock," ORCA CEO Sally Hamilton said in a statement. "On one hand, they promote their pristine environment and spectacular wildlife while simultaneously wielding gaff hooks and lances to kill whales and dolphins. It’s almost as if they are flaunting the hunt and taunting the tourists.”
Ambassador Cruise Line said it "strongly objects" to what it calls an "outdated process."
“We are dedicated to supporting ORCA in their endeavours to collect data and to monitor whales and dolphins and we are extremely disappointed that this has happened after weeks of trying to open constructive dialogue with the Faroese government and Visit Faroes on these issues," said Ambassador Cruise Line CEO Christian Verhounig. "We continue to educate our guests and crew not to buy or eat any whale or dolphin meat and stand against any profiteering from commercial whaling and dolphin hunts."
Faroe Islands officials say the process of slaughtering pilot whales is regulated and used to provide food for residents. The government says whale hunts are not part of a ritual.
"The catch is distributed for free in the local community where a catch takes place," a government website says. "This traditional community-based sharing of catches also ensures that the larger the catch, the more people get a share of it. However, in some supermarkets and on the dockside, whale meat and blubber is occasionally available for sale."
Visit Faroe Islands estimates Faroese hunt on average 800 pilot whales annually.
ORCA and Ambassador have a partnership where ORCA brings its conservationists on board Ambassador cruises to conduct sightings.
"Our partnership with Ambassador puts whale and dolphin conservation at the heart of so much of what the company are doing, and it’s given us unprecedented opportunities to not only inspire guests about the world of these wonderful animals, but also to take direct and meaningful action together to help safeguard them for future generations," ORCA director of fundraising and operations Steve Jones said in February.
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