The anti-whalehunting vessel Sam Simon, which arrived in Lerwick yesterday, is today en route to Faroe with the aim of disrupting the mass killing of whales.
The vessel is one belonging to the Sea Shepherd organisation and together with two other ships in the fleet will spend the summer, the traditional hunting season, in Faroe. The 24 crew on board the ship, formerly a Japanese research vessel, will using various methods to try to save some of the pilot whales, which are driven into a fjord and killed in shallow water.
Captain Locky Maclean, from Canada, described the practice as “very barbaric”.
Captain Maclean said: “The suffering is immense. They are highly sentient creatures.”He described the hunts, or “grinds” as “a bit of a frenzy, with the whales thrashing and the adrenalin pumping in the men (and boys, who are allowed to take part).
First mate Errol Povah, also from Canada, said: “It’s a real family fun event, the water in the bay turns red.”
The grinds are allowed in 22 bays in Faroe and around 120 pilot whales can be killed in a single hunt. As they travel in family groups this could mean four generations of the same family being wiped out, said Capt. Maclean. Around 1,200 pilot whales are killed in any one season, he claimed.
When in Faroe the Sam Simon will use sonic devices to attempt to steer the pilot whales away from Faroe, which they pass on their migration route from the equator to Spitsbergen. This method has had “some success” in the past. A new Faroese law means that the Sam Simon is not allowed within one nautical mile of a pod of whales, but the crew hope that the presence of the ship in the bays will dissuade hunters.
Sea Shepherd will also have volunteers on land – last year around 400 travelled at their expense to the hunt and were prepared to get into the water to disrupt proceedings.
The grind is said to be “traditional”, but Capt Maclean dismissed that as “hogwash”. It was also “traditional”, he said, that women did not drive in Saudi Arabia. And he did not accept the fact that whale meat is eaten in Faroe – he said the [Faroese] surgeon general did not recommend eating it more than once a month because the flesh is full of mercury and the blubber full of dioxins. Whale meat is forbidden for pregnant women in Faroe.
He added: “The younger generation are rejecting it.”
Capt Maclean said he felt young people were slowly rejecting whaling too, but it would be a long process. The Sea Shepherd organisation is “not as popular in Faroe as other places”, he said, but does have Faroese followers on Facebook.