Several countries are condemning what has been widely described as a brutal act of violence against the sea animals.
Almost 100 whales driven into shallow bay before being dragged onshore and slaughtered
The whales were brutally slaughtered in a five-hour hunt which culminated in 12 minutes of killing on the Faroe Islands in the North Atlantic.
A total of 94 long finned pilot whales, including four calves and at least five pregnant mothers, were dragged ashore and killed on the beach at the town of Vestmanna.
According to marine conservation charity Sea Shepherd, which has documented the slaughter, the grindadrap hunt – more commonly known as “the grind”, “involved over five hours of Faroese boats harassing and chasing the pod”.
“The killing took around 12 minutes with the stressed and exhausted pilot whales of all ages being killed indiscriminately in front of their family members until all were left silent on the blood red sands of Vestmanna,” the charity said.
Photographs the charity posted to its Instagram page show unborn baby whales still inside their amniotic sacs, and others show the carcasses of butchered whales being offloaded back into the sea by large diggers.
The traditional hunt has been taking place since Norsemen first settled on the islands over a thousand years ago.
Sea Shepherd is appealing for cruise ship companies to publicly voice their opposition to the killing of around 850 pilot whales and dolphins each year by the Faroese.
Sea Shepherd founder Captain Paul Watson and chief operating officer Rob Read said the hunts “can happen at any time, at any one of the 26 designated killing bays around the Faroe Islands…. with no season, no quota, a lack of effective regulation and despite pilot whale meat being heavily contaminated”.
He added: “Every member of every pod [of pilot whales and dolphins] is killed including pregnant mothers, juveniles and weaning babies. None are ever spared”.
The slaughter at Vestmanna is the eleventh hunt on the Faroe islands this year – with more than 600 pilot whales slaughtered so far in 2019, Sea Shepherd said.
In September last year, the charity offered the Faroe Islands €1m (£910,000) for 10 consecutive years if there were no whale hunts, but the offer was rejected.
Long finned pilot whales are not recognised as being endangered due to a lack of data on the species. The IUCN status is listed as “data deficient”. Various estimates put remaining numbers of individuals at well under a million.