The government on the small Faroe Islands is proposing an annual catch limit of 500 white-sided dolphins on a provisional basis for 2022 and 2023, after last year's unusually large slaughter of more than 1,400 dolphins in a day led to international condemnation and local criticism.
The hunt in the North Atlantic islands is part of a four-century-old traditional drive of sea mammals into shallow water, where they are killed for their meat and blubber. It is not commercial and is authorized, but environmental activists claim it is cruel. Even people in the Faroes who defend the traditional practice worried that the hunt would draw unwanted attention because it was far larger than previous ones and seemingly took place without the usual organization.
On Sunday, the government said that the capping measure was "in response to the unusually large catch” on Sept. 14, 2021. It added that the proposal is expected to be implemented as an executive order by July 25.
"Aspects of that catch were not satisfactory, in particular the unusually large number of dolphins killed,” the government said in a statement. This "is unlikely to be a sustainable level of catch on a long-term annual basis.”
Local media have reported that there were too many dolphins and too few people on the beach to slaughter them, sparking fear the slaughter would revive the discussion about the sea mammal drives and put a negative spin on the ancient tradition of the 18 rocky islands located halfway between Scotland and Iceland. They are semi-independent and part of the Danish realm.
Islanders usually kill up to 1,000 sea mammals – chiefly pilot whales – annually, according to data kept by the Faroe Islands. In 2020, that included only 35 white-sided dolphins. White-sided dolphins and pilot whales are not endangered species.
Each year, islanders drive herds of the mammals into shallow waters. A blow-hole hook is used to secure the beached animals and their spine and main artery leading to the brain are severed with knives. The drives are regulated by law and the meat and blubber are shared on a community basis.
The Faroese government said it "continues to base its policies and management measures on the right and responsibility of (its) people to utilize the resources of the sea sustainably. This also includes marine mammals, such as pilot whales and dolphins.”