Icelandic whaler defends ‘blue whale’ kill, says animal was a hybrid


“Now we have by no means caught a blue whale in our waters since they have been protected,” Kristján Loftsson, managing director of Hvalur hf, instructed CNN. “We see them within the ocean. Whenever you strategy a blue whale, it is so distinct that you simply depart it alone.”

Anti-whaling group Sea Shepherd claimed Wednesday that Loftsson’s firm had killed and butchered a blue whale in Hvalfjordur, Iceland. Volunteers monitoring the whaling website photographed orange-clad crews inspecting the large carcass.

Loftsson claimed that the whale in query was both a fin whale, or a hybrid species, not protected below Icelandic regulation. He mentioned if it was a blue whale the kill was purely unintended.

The distinction between these and blue wales is “straightforward to see,” Loftsson mentioned.

Conservationists disagreed nonetheless. Adam A. Pack, researcher and professor of biology at the University of Hawaii at Hilo, mentioned the images appeared to point out a blue whale.

“(Take a look at) the best way the dorsal fin is hooked, the pointed pectoral fins, and the scale of the animal,” he mentioned.

Pack additionally famous the dearth of a white lip, attribute in fin whales, and the mottling on the whale’s flank, an identifier that acts like fingerprints, as extra proof the animal in query was doubtless a blue whale.

A member of the crew hoses down the whale. The hooked dorsal fin is characteristic of blue whales.

Authorities in Iceland will now conduct genetic testing to find out the whale’s species, which can take months to finish.

In an announcement, the federal government mentioned the “matter was (being) taken significantly by the federal government and the related authorities are investigating this challenge.”

Preliminary data “suggests the animal caught will not be prone to be a blue whale however quite a hybrid of a fin whale and a blue whale,” it added.

Hunted to close extinction

Sea Shepherd’s images sparked instantaneous outrage inside the conservation neighborhood.

Whereas the combat towards whaling will not be a brand new one, this case has attracted better consideration and outrage because of the blue whale’s rarity and guarded standing.

Reaching 30 meters lengthy and weighing as much as 200 tonnes, blue whales have been protected worldwide by the International Whaling Commission because the 1960s, after a long time of what Pack calls “unchecked exploitation.”
According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), blue whales have been practically worn out by whaling fleets earlier than laws have been created. A staggering 360,000 blue whales have been killed within the 20th century in Antarctic waters alone, earlier than the IWC successfully banned industrial whaling in 1986.

Iceland frequently continues to hunt by itself phrases, regardless of being a member of the IWC. The hunt of blue whales, nonetheless, is illegitimate.

“It is very important be aware that blue whales are protected below Icelandic regulation with their seize prohibited,” mentioned Stefán Ásmundsson, Commissioner of Iceland to the IWC, in an announcement. “Iceland has at all times emphasised the necessity for cautious conservation of marine assets and was one of many first international locations on the planet to take a conservationist strategy to whaling.”

A blue whale at the Hvalur hf whaling station in Hvalfjordur, Iceland.

An unsure future

Regardless of the extreme criticism Loftsson has confronted — he has been dubbed a “rogue whaler” by some conservationist teams — he claimed most Icelanders supported whaling.

“We’re an enormous fishing nation, we’re a nation of the ocean,” he mentioned. “You might have deer looking within the US. It is the identical.”

He claimed that sustainability was not a problem as long as whalers persist with laws and quotas. “Why would we wish to catch and catch and make it extinct? We might be slicing our financial soul,” he added.

A blue whale can reach up to 30 meters long and weigh up to 200 tonnes.

Rules might have staved off extinction, however blue whales are nonetheless a good distance from restoration, with an estimated worldwide inhabitants of 10,000 to 25,000. Corporations additionally proceed to hunt different whale species.

“The IWC is just nearly as good because the nations who’ve subscribed to it,” Pack mentioned. “There are nations like Japan that hunt minke whales regardless of pressures from the US and different international locations.”

Japan not too long ago confronted its personal whaling controversy when an IWC report revealed that the nation had killed 122 pregnant minke whales within the identify of scientific analysis over a 3 month interval.

“From a analysis perspective, every little thing we have to study these whales will be taken from a non-lethal strategy at this level,” mentioned Pack. “We’re now in 2018. There isn’t any cause to be looking any cetaceans, together with whales.”

Correction: This story has been up to date to replicate that it has been 40 years because the final blue whale was intentionally caught, in keeping with the IUCN.

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