OP. BLOODY FJORDS - FAROE ISLANDS 2019

WARNING - GRAPHIC CONTENT - ALL IMAGES COPYRIGHT 'SEA SHEPHERD UK'

OP. BLOODY FJORDS - FAROE ISLANDS 2019

WARNING - GRAPHIC CONTENT - ALL IMAGES COPYRIGHT 'SEA SHEPHERD UK'

WARNING !
IMAGES AND VIDEO ARE PROVIDED TO RAISE 
AWARENESS OF MARINE CONSERVATION ISSUES 
AND MAY NOT BE SUITABLE FOR ALL VIEWERS OR YOUNG CHILDREN
Pilot whale remains dumped into the sea using a concrete chute off a cliff near Hvalba - 27th May 2019 
[photos donated to Sea Shepherd by a supporter]
Sea Shepherd hits the front pages in the Faroese press with the announcement of the campaign on our website - and with crew already on the islands...
Syðrugøta drive of a Pilot Whale pod for tagging (killing one adult pilot whale in the process) - 7th July 2019
We were patrolling on the island of Eysturoy heading to the village Syðrugøta when a car suddenly stopped and we noticed that the person inside was looking at the bay. We got closer to the sea and spotted around 15:40 a pod of pilot whales next to the salmon farms with 3 boats behind them. At 15:50 an article is posted in Nordlysid.fo: the pod will not be killed but 'marked' for scientific research (head of the research program: Bjarni Mikkelsen). More boats joined the first ones and the pod is slowly driven towards the shore. One whale stays behind looking weak. On the beach, the scientific team is waiting (8 people) assisted by two “grindaformaður” wearing orange jackets.  
The stranding happens at 16:25 on Gøtusandur. The whale who looks weak is still behind and two boats block its route several times causing even more distress. 17 whales are beached, among them 5 are selected for tagging. The whales are held by around 15 people (at all times some children were touching the whales). The scientific team starts drilling the first whale at 16:36. They drill 4 holes in its dorsal fin, pass plastic rods through the holes and screw a metallic tag with a satellite transmitter to the fin. None of the scientific equipment is prepared in advance. While the whale is bleeding the scientist is still attaching the plastic rod to a plate (step he could have done in advance). The whale seems to be in pain every time they are drilling. The marking of the first whale is done at 16h58 meaning that it lasted 22 minutes. 
At 16:49, we notice that a whale on the right starts struggling a lot. (watching all the videos we are sure that this whale is the one who died and it was not the whale who stayed behind before stranding). Two men try to push her towards the main group but she starts panicking and rushing around the group shaking on her side like she is having a stroke. She strands again on the other side of the beach. Three men try to push her again but she now looks dead. They push her towards a boat and she starts moving again, circling around on her side before she finally stops moving; she is probably dead. At 17:00 two men sit on the dead whale to hide her, while a third one (member of the scientific team) is attaching a rope to her tail. The crew on the blue boat (FD 222) retrieves rope and leaves quietly around 17:13 with the whale hidden on the side of the boat. Later around 18:40, two members of our team find the blue boat in Leirvik. They observed the people from the boat using a crane to pick up the whale from the boat, dropping it on the dock and cutting it up. 
At 17:00 the scientific team starts marking the second whale which lasts 7 minutes. At 17:08 they start marking the third one which lasts 7 minutes. At 17:16 they start the fourth whale which also lasts 7 minutes. At 17:24 they start the last one which lasts 8 minutes. 
Around 17:35 they start refloating the remaining 16 whales still alive, by pushing them away, making noise, splashing the water and using three boats to prevent them from coming back. The whales don’t want to swim away. They stay very close to each other, showing signs of exhaustion and confusion. They are not driven very far from the bay by the boats and two or three whales are separated from the group. At 18:06, all the boats abandon the efforts by leaving the bay leaving only two scientists still watching from the shore. The pod is still in the bay, with two whales far behind. They slowly swim back to the shore, looking exhausted and confused. They are searching for something, circling around, diving and repeating; they are probably looking for the missing whale. At 19:10, they are really close to the rocks next to the beach and one of them strands. This one hardly manages to refloat itself. At 19:20, the whole pod strands again. The first to react is the researcher Bjarni Mikkelsen, followed by his assistant (the guy in a yellow dry suit) who go get a boat. We (the four members of the team) run in the water to help to refloat the whales. After around 45 minutes, the pod is away from the shore far enough for the two boats to finally drive them away.  In total, the whole operation has lasted almost 5 hours. At the end, an elderly Faroese woman approached us saying we were 'true heroes'. Another woman who participated in the refloating kindly invited us to an office to take a hot shower and a cup of tea. There, we understood that if this pod was selected for tagging it was because of their location. 
The G! Festival was taking place a few days later in Syðrugøta so the Faroese did not want to have bloody pictures associated to the place. Already one of the main performers (Lewis Capaldi) had canceled because of the grind hunts they were told, so they did not want more gridadraps to result in more cancellations.
Grindadrap of 23 pilot whales (including one calf and two pregnant mothers) at Hvalvik - 2nd August 2019
On the morning of Friday 2nd August, reports came in of a grind having been called for a pod of long finned pilot whales at the killing bay in Hvalvik.
The pod struggled for over 3 hours as boats ranging from small RHIB's to larger yachts and fishing boats surrounded them. News report referenced 25 boats participating in the drive, however Sea Shepherd crew observed and documented closer to 40 vessels participating. Over the course of the lengthy drive more and more members of the public and tourists could be seen stopping along the coastline to watch the family of pilot whales struggle and resist.
As is often the case, the grind was swiftly becoming a social event with parents laughing and chatting as children played on the killing beach.  The level of excitement was clearly growing as anticipation of the brutality came closer, epitomising the social aspect of the grind was the sight of a youth group (possibly a guides or scout group) sat eagerly watching and waiting.
As the pod approached the shore it became apparently that due to the tide being high, plans to drive the pod to the beach/grassy area changed and "certified" participants were seen quickly picking up the ropes and moving to the water’s edge further round the bay. Sea Shepherd crew observed what appeared to be at least one instance for a boat riding over the top of the pod as they attempted to control and drive them into the waiting crowd.  this appears to have been confirmed by the image of propeller strikes visible on the side of one of the larger family members, documented on the docks after the slaughter was complete.
Once the pod were in the shallows our crew began live streaming as grind participants ran cheering into the pod to start attaching ropes and pulling individuals out to begin slaughtering, given the size of the pod (later confirmed at 23, which included juveniles) vs. the number of people it was a quick end to a long drive.  Though, as usual, the "humane" process of killing the pilot whales was far from it, with multiple unsuccessful attempts to paralyse the with the lance were observed on a number of the pod.  Having previously observed other pilot whale drives our crew noted that this pod had clearly been worn out or resigned to their fate as little to no cries were heard from the pod.
As the sea turned red for the tenth time this year, the level of excitement amongst participants and families attending began to reduce as the slaughtered family were lashed to the sides of boats to be transferred to a nearby dock to butchered. Queues could be seen as those that had attended ensured their names were on the lists of participants that would later be allocated a proportion of whale meat.  one participant later told Sea Shepherd crew that he would receive 24kg for his involvement, and as a Faroese scientist has recommended a maximum intake of 250g per month for health reasons, can we assume that this person won’t be participating in any grindadrap for the next 8 years?
At the docks our crew observed and live streamed the pilot whales being prepared for butchering; as the family were laid out on the docks the all too familiar and disturbing images of children jumping on and playing with the dead could be seen.  As the process continued crew witnessed one juvenile being laid out to be butchered and the harrowing sight of one unborn calf being cut from their mother’s womb, the calf appeared to be mere days or weeks from being born. In another case a small foetus was witnessed being removed. In both cases Grind participants moved very quickly to hide the unborn from the sight of the public. However Sea Shepherd crew were able to live stream one and captured photographs of both to ensure they are not forgotten; our crew learnt from one participant that the unborn are not eaten and would later be "returned to the sea" an eloquent way of saying their bodies will be unceremoniously dumped.
The Faroese often talk of the tradition behind the grindadrap and specifically the respect shown to the pilot whales, video and photographs from the tenth grind of 2019 clearly show this not to be the case with images of people and tourists taking selfies with the murdered pod, children playing with fins, kicking/punching the bodies, walking on them and worryingly seen running around the dock carrying the traditional knives that are used as part of the grindadrap with one child, believed to be approx. 10 years old, seen poking the point of the blade into one of the pods fins. Then, as is often the case, participants began removing teeth and sharing them with those in attendance, one local explained to our crew that these are great souvenirs and can be made into jewellery such as earrings or necklaces - some of which can be seen for sale (commercially) in shops in Torshavn and elsewhere.
Grindadrap of  98 Long Finned Pilot Whales at Vestmanna - 27th August 2019
Sea Shepherd crew in Vestmanna counted 94 long finned pilot whales killed in the grindadrap hunt, including 4 calves and at least 5 pregnant whales.
This grindadrap hunt involved over 5 hours of Faroese boats harrassing and chasing the pod -and 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.
Read more about our campaign at: https://bit.ly/2YqfZyE
Eyewitness Report by Tina - Operation Bloody Fjords crew  [30th Aug 2019]

The Faroe Islands - conflicting emotions of finding beauty in the rough landscapes mixed with the heavy knowledge and first hand experience of the senseless, cruel and barbaric massacre of innocent sentient beings.
Whilst driving around the islands you cannot avoid to feel awed by the scenery, the endless stretches of grassy mountains, rocky cliffs surrounding the fjords, leading to sandy beaches.
However, you also know that this picturesque landscape can change in front of your eyes within minutes...you are in your car, checking websites, looking out for boat traffic, birds movements and an unusual amount of cars heading in one direction.
It's the 27 August 2019, and suddenly one of the websites announces a 'Grind' happening...your adrenaline shoots through the roof, your hands are shacking whilst you try to translate the article to find out the what and where. You head towards the killing beach, hoping the pod will escape.
Near the beach you are surrounded by people who are preparing for the massacre to come, people laying out ropes, with hooks attached, people who carry knives attached to their hips. Families with children of all ages start to arrive and you wait and hope, wait and hope.
One police car and a van have also arrived as they know you are from Sea Shepherd.
Then you are informed that the pod will not be driven into Laynar but into Vestmanna instead. You as every one else head to the cars to drive over to the next killing beach, where the preparation starts all over again.
Boats are leaving the habour to meet the others and suddenly you can see the boats coming in, driving a family pod of pilot whales in front of them. Then you start to hear the banging and shouting, the wall of sound the whalers create to move the pod closer and closer to the beach. You hear the exhausted pilot whales breathing, the desperate blowing of air out of their blow hole.
The people on the beach are getting ready, grabbing hold of the ropes, you can feel their excitement and anticipation; and then it starts - people running into the water, pilot whales splashing in panic whilst being hooked and dragged onto the beach. Grind Foremen in yellow hi-vis jackets running from whale to whale to give the death blow with a spinal lance before someone else then cuts the neck - many do not die instantly but bleed out in the shallow water, sometimes thrashing their tails.
You are surrounded by laughing, shouting, screaming and splashing whilst the water underneath your feet is turning red with the blood of these beautiful and innocent souls.
You hold your phone, trying not to shake so that the video is not blured. Your emotions shut down, you concentrate on the tasks you have on hand...
People approach you, try to talk to you, try to keep you from documenting but you just keep going, trying to capture the whole scene as best as you can.
Then it's over, an entire family of long-finned pilot whales has been wiped out within 15 minutes, after a 5 hours long drive hunt.
Whilst the pilot whales are tied to the boats with their flukes you try to find out where they will bring them. You head to your car to drive over to the habour.
When you arrive you can see workers using cranes and a forklift to lay the whales down next to each other so that they can be cleaned, measured and cut open.
You can see adults, juveniles and calves being lined up next to each other...again you try to keep your emotions in check whilst walking between all these beautiful cetaceans who just have lost their lives. The smell of death hitting your nose is overwhelming. Children are running around, touching and kicking the dead bodies. Dead fetuses, some still inside their mothers or just laying on the ground. Onlookers with drink cans and bottles are standing around laughing and talking.
The next day you head back to see if you can find out what they are going to do with the remains... you arrive when they are in the process of loading the carcasses onto a truck. When the truck leaves you follow, you smell the unbearable smell of rotting flesh and have full view of the dead bodies in the lorry in front of you...
The truck stops, calls the police. When the police arrives they ask you if you intend to video the dumping of the carcasses and surprisingly they allow us to continue.
At a secluded cliff the lorry and police come to a stop. The truck driver gets out and then starts to use the claw crane to unload the carcasses by moving the arm over the cliff. The police keep us back but close enough to still film and we can see the remains falling when the claw opens and then you hear how they hit the rocks of the ravine before splashing into the sea below. One load after the next is finding its final end in the underwater graveyard...gone they are all gone... it's over... a whole family has been wiped out in front of your eyes.
And your mind still hasn't caught up with what your eyes have witnessed. You know that you will never forget the sounds, the blood and the smell - it will remain with you, making you even more determined to do everything you can to put an end to an outdated, unnecessary, senseless and barbaric practice.
Sea Shepherd Crew Documents the Dumping of Pilot Whale Remains - 28th Aug 2019
After having followed a truck from the site of the previous day's grindadráp in Vestmanna, Sea Shepherd crew managed to document the dumping the pilot whale remains, calves and fetuses over a cliff into the sea.
The site of the dumping is just South-East of the small town of Leynar, a dumping site previously uncovered by Sea Shepherd in 2010.
"In 2010, during a maritime undercover mission, our team had discovered this underwater graveyard near the hunting beach of Leynar. Dozens of pilot whale corpses were lying on the seafloor, some of which were untouched. The Faroese claimed that these were only parts that could not be eaten or whales considered ill and not fit for consumption" said Lamya Essemlali, President of Sea Shepherd France and previous Faroes campaign leader.
“Seeing how the Faroese dump these victims, it is clear that they have no respect for pilot whales or dolphins - either when they are alive, or after they have been killed” said Rob Read, Faroes campaign leader, and Sea Shepherd UK director
The grind in Vestmanna on August 27th ended up taking the lives of 98 whales, including young calves and pregnant mothers after a harrowing 5-hour chase. It was the 11th grind of 2019, but the first-ever where Sea Shepherd managed to document the act of dumping the remains of the whales.
The Fulmar Hunt - photos from Hvannasund in the North East of the Faroe Islands.
The Faroese annual harvest of seabirds is highly variable and is estimated to be between 50.000 and 250.000 birds, mainly Fulmar fledglings.
The Fulmar hunt starts around the third week of August and lasts into the second week of September. Many of the boats catch between 100 and 300 fulmar young each day and the boats from towns like Hvannasund, close to the biggest fulmar colonies, take as many as 900 young fulmars each day.
Read more about the Faroese fulmar hunts at: https://bit.ly/33Us9yE
Pilot whale for sale in the Faroe Islands
The numbers of dolphins and pilot whales killed by the Faroese in the 
14 grindadrap hunts of 2019 was as follows:
 
1st January at Trongisvágur (Øravík) - 70 long finned pilot whales
29th April at Sandavágur - 105 long finned pilot whales
9th May at Hvalba - 36 long finned pilot whales
12th May at Bøur - 45 long finned pilot whales
26th May at Hvalba - 61 long finned pilot whales
29th May at Sandágerði (Tórshavn) - 145 long finned pilot whales
29th May at Skálabotnur - 7 Atlantic White Sided Dolphins
4th June at Fuglafjørður - 21 long finned pilot whales
23rd June at Leynar - 30 long finned pilot whales
2nd August at Hvalvik - 23 long finned pilot whales
27th August at Vestmanna - 98 long finned pilot whales
9th September at Trongisvágur - 49 long finned pilot whales
28th September at Sandvik - 4 long finned pilot whales
9th October at Miðvágur - 1 Atlantic white sided dolphin
The first massacre of a family of 70 pilot whales on New Year's day 2019 immediately lost the Faroese the entire 1 Million Euros incentive to end the Grindadráp (100,000 Euros each year for 10 consecutive years with zero cetacean kills) offered on the 28th September 2018 by Sea Shepherd UK.
In 2008, an article in the New Scientist told how Faroe chief medical officers Pál Weihe and Høgni Debes Joensen deemed whale meat unsafe for human consumption because of high mercury content. They told how mercury poisoning could trigger a range of ailments including fetal neural development, high blood pressure, circulatory problems and possible infertility.

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