Just months after killing and butchering a potential hybrid blue whale/fin whale, Icelandic whalers have been caught in the act once again.
Footage captured by Sea Shepherd on August 24 shows whalers dragging an unusual whale, known as “whale 98,” into a whale station in Hvalfjörður, a fjord located about half an hour from the capital Reykjavík. The whale is believed to be a cross between a blue whale and a fin whale, however, this is yet to be confirmed. Before stripping the whale of its blubber and meat, crew members were seen posing for photographs with the corpse. It's believed the meat will be exported to Japan where it is sold as food.
Hvalur hf, the company behind the whaling, is owned by multi-millionaire businessman, Kristján Loftsson. As of this week, they have killed two rare blue whale hybrids and 109 endangered fin whales, of which 14 were pregnant.
The International Whaling Commission (IWC) issued a global moratorium to ban commercial whaling since 1986. This agreement was kick-started as a result of the catastrophic levels of whaling that took part in recent centuries. By some estimates, blue whales have been depleted by up to 90 percent of their pre-whaling population.
Most of the international community has stuck to the IWC agreement, except for Iceland, Norway, and Japan. Hvalur hr holds a permit to kill 191 endangered fin whales, the second largest species of whale, during a 100-day hunting season this summer.
A few days before this, Hvalur hf were also observed killing a pregnant fin whale, reportedly by mistake. Photographs by Sea Shepherd showed the fin whale being butchered while workers dragged away from the dead fetus.
Speaking about Loftsson in July 2018, Sea Shepherd Founder Captain Paul Watson remarked: “This man must be stopped from ruthlessly violating international conservation law and bringing such disrepute to the nation of Iceland. There can be no legal justification for this crime.”
The exact species of "whale 98" is also up for debate, with some arguing it’s a blue whale and other claiming its a hybrid. Although both types of whale are extremely rare, Hvalur hr has no authority, even within Iceland, to hunt blue whales. This could change whether the killing was “above board” and whether they can sell the meat.
Sea Shepherd contends that the individual appears to be a blue whale, however, the Marine and Freshwater Research Institute of Iceland carried out a DNA analysis and determined that it was a hybrid, most likely of a blue whale and a fin whale. This, however, is a preliminary analysis that still needs to be confirmed