Faroe Islands to limit dolphin hunt quota to 500

The Faroe Islands, a Danish autonomous territory, said Sunday it would provisionally limit its controversial dolphin hunt to 500, following public outcry over the practice.

An aerial view near Sandavagur in the Faroe Islands
An aerial view taken on October 12, 2021 near Sandavagur on Vagar Island, in the Faroe Islands, where the Faroese dolphin-hunting tradition of 'grindadrap" remains popular. Jonathan NACKSTRAND / AFP

“An annual catch limit of 500 white-sided dolphins has now been proposed by the Ministry of Fisheries on a provisional basis for 2022 and 2023,” the government of the Danish autonomous territory said.

The quota was set after the “unusually large catch” of 1,423 white-sided dolphins in September last year, it said in a statement.

“Aspects of that catch were not satisfactory, in particular the unusually large number of dolphins killed,” it added.

“This made procedures difficult to manage and is unlikely to be a sustainable level of catch on a long-term annual basis.”

A review of the practice was launched in February, after a petition with almost 1.3 million signatures calling for a ban on the traditional hunt was submitted to the Faroese government.

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 activists who consider the practice barbaric.

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

On Sunday, the government stressed that the catches serve as an “important supplement to the livelihoods of Faroe Islanders”.

“The utilisation of both pilot whales and white-sided dolphins in the Faroe Islands is sustainable,” it added.

Given current stocks, the government said an annual quota of around 825 dolphins would be “well within sustainable limits”, but has recommended 500 as a provisional limit.

It added that it was waiting for an opinion from the Scientific Committee of the North Atlantic Marine Mammal Commission, expected in by 2024, after which it would review the provisional quota.

It said it would also evaluate the procedures used to drive and kill the dolphins so that it would “be carried out as quickly and efficiently as possible”.

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

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

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Faroe Islands renew fishing quota deal with Russia

Denmark's autonomous Faroe Islands have renewed a fishing quota deal with Russia for one year despite Moscow's invasion of Ukraine, a local minister said on Saturday.

Faroe Islands renew fishing quota deal with Russia

“The Faroe Islands are totally right to extend their existing fishing agreement with Russia,” the North Atlantic archipelago’s minister of fisheries Arni Skaale told the Jyllands-Posten daily.

He added however that the islands, which are not part of the European Union, condemned “all form of war – also the war in Ukraine” after Russian forces invaded in February.

The agreement has been in place since 1977 and is renewable each year.

It lays out catch quotas for cod, haddock, whiting and herring in the Barents Sea north of Russia for Faroese fishermen, and in waters off the coast of the Faroe Islands for Russian fishing boats.

Dependent on fishing

The autonomous territory is highly dependent on fishing for its income, and the fisheries ministry says the deal with Russia covers 5 percent of its GDP.

Russia has become a key commercial partner of the Faroe Islands since they and neighbouring Iceland fell out with the European Union – including Denmark – between 2010 and 2014 over mackerel and herring quotas.

An EU embargo on Faroese fish harmed the economy of the territory, which then turned to other markets.

“Today we only have free trade agreements with six countries – and not with the European Union,” said Skaale.

“If we cut ourselves off from one of these markets, it could be problematic for the whole of the next generation.”

Alternatives to be considered

Authorities on the archipelago have however said they would think about alternatives to the deal with Russia after local parliamentary polls on December 8.

Last month, neighbouring Norway – a NATO member – and Russia also agreed on catch quotas in the Barents Sea for next year.

Home to some 54,000 inhabitants, the Faroe Islands have been largely autonomous from Denmark since 1948.