The Office of Protected Resources, an US
government agency responsible for
protecting marine mammals and endangered marine life, have confirmed that
finned pilot whales are being hunted. According to their website
the pilot whale continues to be hunted and slaughtered on the Faroe Island which lies between Denmark and Iceland in the cold
Atlantic waters but there is no danger of this species becoming extinct. The Office of Protected Resources
falls under the Fisheries Department of the National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in the Department of Commerce.
Long finned pilot whales are part of the
dolphin family and like all marine mammals they are a protected species
in the United States but classified by the NOAA agency as a "Low Risk
Least Concern." In the North Atlantic there are about about
750,000 long fin pilot whale in number. Male pilot whales can
measure up to 25 feet in length and weigh up to 5000 pounds.
The female of the species is generally smaller in length measuring about
19 feet and weighing in just short of 3000 pounds. This is
an anti-tropical (cooler water) species with a usual
habitat of deep open ocean but they have been been spotted in coastal regions depending on season.
According to the Office of Protected
Resources site, pilot whales are very social creatures and travel in
large groups of up to 200 called pods. Whalers benefited from this
by driving and herding them together into tight groups. The
whales follow their food source in the waters consisting mostly of
whiting fish, squid, and mackerel.
According to a
BBC News story, residents
of the Faroe have been hunting for pilot whales for centuries, giving
them valuable food stocks for the winter. The island has had
settlement since the Viking age (800-900 AD.)
The shore-based hunters in the Faroe
Islands of Denmark continue this practice and it is a community effort
for storing whale meat and products for the winter. Pilot whale meat and
blubber is considered by islanders to be an important part of their
staple diet. The whale meat is never sold, instead it is divided
evenly to everyone who wants it. What ever is left over is donated
to the local hospital and senior citizens on the island. There is
very little of the whale that is actually wasted. The islanders use the
blubber for processing oil, the skin
for ropes and lines, stomachs for floats, and the esophagus for shoes. Pilot whales register high in mercury so pregnant mothers are warned
against partaking in the meat.
As for a ceremony of
rite of passage, other than the traditional confirmation or getting
married we found no evidence of a required whale hunt for the young men
on this island. The communal processing is open to anyone on the island who regardless
of age or gender.
information site posted the actual description of the process of hunting, tools used
and the legal regulations in Faroa.
for Faroa whaling regulations and process.
Click for BBC NEWS eye witness account of the whale hunt
for NOAA Office of Protected Resources report on Pilot Whale