The Faroese government said in a statement on Monday that it had barred a Sea Shepherd ship, the Bob Barker, form entering its waters "with a basis in immigration legislation and in the interests of maintaining law and order".
The ship was carrying 21 activists who were trying to disrupt traditional whale hunts on the islands, known as “the grind” or “grindadráp”.
Late on Tuesday, the activists said that the refusal of entry was illegal and said that Danish officials, not the government of the autonomous archipelago, were behind the decision.
“The Bob Barker is the third Sea Shepherd ship to arrive in the Faroe Islands since June, but is the only one of the three ships whose crew has been denied entry. Sea Shepherd believes that the Refusal of Entry notices issued by Denmark are unlawful, and has since commenced appeal processes to fight the order,” the group wrote in a statement.
Sea Shepherd spokesman Alex Cornelissen accused of Denmark of trying to silence criticism of the whale hunt, which every summer provokes a large amount of criticism of Denmark and the Faroe Islands from international animal rights activists.
“By some odd reasoning, Denmark seems to think that the best way to divert attention away from its complicit support of the grindadráp is to conduct further legally dubious activity,” Cornelissen said.
Cornelissen said that the denial of entry must be a sign that the aggressive campaign from Sea Shepherd and its supporters must be working.
“By denying the crew of the Bob Barker entry to the Faroe Islands, Danish authorities have proven that they are more interested in supporting the slaughter of pilot whales than they are in upholding their EU responsibilities and maintaining their relationships with other EU countries. They have also shown how effective Sea Shepherd has been in holding Denmark accountable for the on-going slaughter of cetaceans in the Danish realm,” he said.
Danish MPs said earlier this summer that they were receiving up to 3,000 emails a day from angry animal rights supporters. Some of the politicians said that they had received very aggressive messages and even death threats. The activists also actively target Danish media outlets, including The Local.
Five Sea Shepherd activists were found guilty of disrupting the traditional whale hunt earlier this month and were expelled from the islands. The group says 12 activists have been convicted since the start of the year and that around 60 Sea Shepherd activists are still in the archipelago.
During the hunt, which many locals defend as a cultural right, 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. The Faroe Islands say that the number of animals killed is small compared to the population. About 800 whales are killed per year out of a population of more than 750,000.
The Faroe Islands are home to just under 50,000 people and have been an autonomous Danish province since 1948.