A Whale of a Killing in Denmark-Truth! and Fiction!

A Whale of a Killing in Denmark –Truth! & Fiction!

Summary of eRumor:
An eRumor with graphic photos written in Spanish about the hunting of pilot whales on the Danish
Faroe Island as a right of passage.

The Truth:
The Office of Protected Resources, an US government agency responsible for protecting marine mammals and endangered marine life, have confirmed that long 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 9/14/2003 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 a Norse 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.

A whaling information site posted the actual description of the process of hunting, tools used and the legal regulations in Faroa.

Click for Faroa whaling regulations and process.

Click for BBC NEWS eye witness account of the whale hunt

Click for NOAA Office of Protected Resources report on Pilot Whale

posted 09/10/08