Militant conservation group Sea Shepherd said Tuesday it had dispatched a vessel from Bremen in Germany to the Faroe Islands in the North Atlantic to campaign against a traditional whale hunt.
The vessel, the Sam Simon, will try to prevent hunters from killing pilot whales, the group said in a statement.
“The ship is expected to arrive in the island archipelago on Friday, following a short, mid-week stopover in the Shetland Islands,” the group said in a statement.
“Denmark allows the Faroe Islands to continue the barbaric practice of the grindadrap (the grind) despite being a signatory to the Bern Convention, which outlaws the slaughter of cetaceans,” it said.
During the annual 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 hacked to death with hooks and knives — a “grind” that many locals defend as a cultural right.
The whale meat and blubber are consumed by locals and considered delicacies.
Sam Simon crew will join fellow Sea Shepherd members on board a fast-interceptor vessel donated by the Brigitte Bardot Foundation — an animal rights group founded by the former French actress — which arrived in Faroese waters last Wednesday.
Another ship, the Bob Barker, will join them shortly, Sea Shepherd said. The campaign will run until October 1.
The timing of the killing depends on when the cetaceans are spotted offshore, and Sea Shepherd activists have intervened in the Faroes several times in the past.
Whaling in the archipelago stretches back to the earliest Norse settlements more than 1,000 years ago, and community-organised hunts date to at least the 16th century.
Pilot whales, which feed primarily on squid, have a distinct, rounded head with a very slight beak. Males weigh up to three tonnes, twice as much as females.
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.
During last summer's protest action, 14 Sea Shepherd activists were arrested in the Faroe Islands while attempting to save a pod of 33 pilot whales.