Faroe Islands begins review of controversial dolphin hunt

The Faroe Islands, a Danish autonomous territory, says it has begun discussions about the future of its controversial dolphin hunt, with a decision expected in the coming weeks.

A pilot whale hunt in Torshavn, Faroe Islands
A pilot whale hunt in Torshavn, Faroe Islands, in 2019. The Faroe Islands, a Danish autonomous territory, said on February 15th, 2022 it had begun discussions about the future of its controversial dolphin hunt. File photo: Andrija Ilic/AFP/Ritzau Scanpix

A petition with almost 1.3 million signatures calling for a ban on the traditional hunt was submitted to the Faroese government on Monday, the prime minister’s office and whale conservation groups told AFP.

At a meeting on Tuesday in Torshavn, the government discussed the conclusions of a re-evaluation that Prime Minister Bardur a Steig Nielsen had ordered in September, after the unusually large slaughter of more than 1,400 Atlantic white-sided dolphins sparked an outcry.

“It was a first meeting. No decisions were taken,” an official in the prime minister’s office told AFP.

He added that a final decision was expected “in a few weeks”, and “several options” were on the table.

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.

Every summer, images of the bloody hunt make headlines around the world and spark outrage among animal rights defenders who consider the practice barbaric.

But the hunt still enjoys broad support in the Faroes, where supporters point out that the animals have fed the local population for centuries.

Normally, around 600 pilot whales are hunted every year in this way.

But the dolphin hunt on September 12th, 2021 in the Skala fjord was much bigger, triggering an international outcry and pushing the government to reconsider the practice.

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

In the petition, handed over by the Whale and Dolphin Conservation organisation, signatories called for the end of the “cruel” practice.

READ ALSO: Why mass dolphin slaughter could catalyse change to Faroe Islands tradition

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Faroe Islands eye fishing agreement with UK after Brexit

The Faroe Islands, an autonomous archipelago in Denmark, said on Wednesday it wanted to negotiate on a fisheries agreement with the Britain after its exit from the EU, a concern for the Faroese economy.

Faroe Islands eye fishing agreement with UK after Brexit
The Faroese capital Torshavn. Photo: Iris/Scanpix

“The UK remains one of the most important markets for Faroese seafood exports. A new trade agreement with the UK to ensure future exports is therefore a priority of the Faroese government,” it wrote in a statement.

The Faroe Islands, a territory of nearly 50,000 inhabitants in the North Atlantic between Iceland, Scotland, and Norway, chose to remain outside the European Union when Denmark joined the bloc in 1973.

The archipelago has rejected the Common Fisheries Policy, a set of rules that manage European fishing fleets, to freely decide its own quotas.

The Faroe Islands, heavily dependent on fisheries, seek to find a new agreement with Britain when it has left the EU in order to continue to export its fish to the nation.

The agreement should also regulate the Faroese fishermen's access to British waters and vice versa, currently allowed by the EU, according to the Faroese government.

Fishing (mainly herring and mackerel) and fish farming (salmon) are vital sectors for the archipelago, accounting for 98 percent of its goods exports.

In the summer of 2014, the Faroe Islands settled a dispute with the EU, known as the “herring war”, which prevented it from exporting fish to the EU for one year because of quotas deemed excessive by Brussels.

READ ALSO: Denmark to apply for relocated London EU agency: minister