Faroe Islands dolphin hunt. Scottish fisheries also kill dolphins
The images were shocking, of course – bodies of dolphins lying on the beach streaked with blood, a sea turned red. The images of the “Grind” of the Faroe Islands, their hunt for pilot whales or white-sided dolphins, still are. But before we storm and talk about that bloody stain in the Faroese eyes, we should be looking at the board in ours. It may be less visible, but it is there.
This recent massacre in the sands of the Faroe Islands was, of course, particularly gruesome, 1,428 dolphins killed in a single hunt, and I make no apologies for that. It would even have upset many supporters of the tradition. The fact that this seems to have been accidental, and the Hunters thought they were chasing a much smaller group, hardly makes it any better.
Killing like this, especially at a time when awareness of our multiple impacts is growing, seems to be a symbol of Homo sapiens’ inability to stop. But the cetacean hunting that takes place not only in the Faroe Islands, but also in Taiji in Japan, is not the only activity harmful to cetaceans that we seem unable to stop. The killing of dolphins and other species as bycatch in commercial fisheries continues unabated.
Do you eat wild ocean fish caught in gillnets or trawls? Do you eat tuna, especially any tuna without the dolphin-friendly stamp? Then there is also invisible blood on your hands.
In The Brilliant Abyss, Helen Scales warns against desecration of the underwater kingdom
According to the Whale and Dolphin Conservation charity, every year in UK waters more than 1,000 porpoises and hundreds of dolphins, including 250 common dolphins, die after being caught in gillnets. Another 30 minke whales and 5 humpback whales die from tangling in creel ropes, used by shrimp, lobster and crab fishing, in the seas around Scotland. And, perhaps the most shocking figure around cetacean bycatch, every year 10,000 common dolphins, which come from the same population as the dolphins we see off our coasts, die in trawls in the Gulf. of Gascony.
A third of the world’s cetaceans are threatened with extinction. One particularly disturbing fact that author Adam Nicolson pointed out to me recently is that the year in which most whales were killed was also the year before whaling became more economically viable because that there were too few whales left, and it was only then that whaling was banned.
Over the past year, campaigners have called on the UK and decentralized governments to follow through on their commitment in post-Brexit Fisheries Act to ‘reduce and, where possible, eliminate’ bycatch of dolphins, porpoises and whales in UK fishing activities. The proposals include greater surveillance and that gillnets be replaced by alternative gears.
Another solution to the broader problem of bycatch, advocated by some, is to
But cetaceans aren’t the only species we should be concerned about. A report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations on 2019 discards found that fishing harms at least 20 million creatures of endangered, threatened and protected species each year. Ten percent of the world’s annual catches were discarded – almost half of these came from bottom trawls and the remainder from purse seines, midwater trawls and gillnet fisheries.
In Scotland one of our biggest bycatch problems is cod and whiting, killed or injured while fishing for Norway lobster. According to Open Seas, “the Scottish Government’s own figures have estimated that 1,308 tonnes of unwanted cod, whiting and haddock would be caught in the coastal waters of the west coast of Scotland by the shrimp trawler fleet, in during the first three months of 2019. ”
If we saw these cod and whiting, or other bycatch, lined up on the beach, like these dolphins, would we be able to put those wastes so easily aside and eat that lobster on our plate? We condemn these Faroese hunters, but they at least eat the meat of the dolphins and whales they have killed. The lives of cetaceans and other species accidentally caught or entangled in abandoned fishing gear are simply wasted.
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