A Faroe Islands court on Friday found five activists from the militant conservation group Sea Shepherd guilty of disrupting the region's traditional whale hunt, one of the activists said.
The five were arrested on July 23 in the Faroe Islands — an archipelago of 18 islands that make up an autonomous province of Denmark — as they attempted to stop and document the annual pilot whale cull.
The court found Marianne Baldo of Italy, Kevin Schiltz of Luxembourg, Christophe Bondue of Belgium, Xavier Figarella of France and Rosie Kunneke of South Africa guilty of contravening the Faroese Pilot Whale Act, Kunneke told AFP.
“We are immediately appealing the verdict and the sentences,” she said by telephone from the Faroese capital Torshavn.
The court handed down sentences ranging from 5,000 kroner (670 euros, $735) or eight days in prison to 35,000 kroner or 14 days in prison. The Sea Shepherd organization was also fined 75,000 kroner.
“On Monday, the prosecution will be asking for immediate deportation, and we will also be appealing that,” Kunneke said, adding: “If we fail in our appeals, we would rather do the time than pay a fine which would imply that we accepted the Pilot Whale Act.”
Sea Shepherd has repeatedly attempted to highlight and stop the territory's pilot whale hunt. It launched its latest action in the area, involving two vessels and dozens of activists, two months ago.
During the whale hunt, the three-to-six metre (10-to-20 foot) sea mammals are driven by a flotilla of small boats into a bay or the mouth of a fjord before being killed by hand — a “grind” that many locals defend as a cultural right.
The whale meat and blubber are consumed by locals and considered delicacies. The timing of the killing depends on when the cetaceans are spotted offshore.
Whaling in the archipelago stretches back to the earliest Norse settlements more than 1,000 years ago and community-organized hunts date to at least the 16th century.
The Faroe Islands, situated between Norway, Iceland and Scotland, are home to just under 50,000 people and have been an autonomous Danish province since 1948.
Despite the Faroese autonomy, Sea Shepherd maintains “the Grind is just as much a Danish issue as it is a Faroese issue.”
“For the Danes to say this has nothing to do with Denmark is untrue,” Sea Shepherd’s founder, Paul Wilson, wrote in a statement.
“Danish warships are defending the hunt with two warships including a frigate, helicopters, small boats and hundreds of sailors, at an enormous cost to Danish and European taxpayers. The Danish Prime Minister has a Faroese wife. The Royal Family says nothing. And not one word of criticism from a single Danish Member of Parliament. These facts speak for themselves,” Wilson added.