'First blue whale' caught in 50 years

Elias Hubbard
July 12, 2018

The organization says this is the 22nd endangered whale killed for export to Japan by Kristján Loftsson's commercial whaling company since June 20, 2018.

Icelandic whalers were spotted killing the whale earlier this week, with concerning pictures showing the animal's dark belly and black baleen - indicating it is a blue whale.

Phillip Clapham, head of cetacean assessment at the Marine Mammal Laboratory in Seattle, studied photographs of the whale caught by Hvalur and said it was likely to be a blue whale, not a hybrid.

Although the first 21 whales killed were Fin whales - which the Icelandic government has permitted Loftsson's company to slaughter despite an worldwide moratorium on whaling and the endangered status of the Fin whale - they do not have any legal authority to kill endangered Blue whales, even within Iceland, alleges Sea Shepherd. If confirmed to be a blue whale, it would be the first detected harpooning in about 50 years.

Icelandic fishing magnate Kristjan Loftsson views the whale, believed to be a blue whale. "If this were a blue whale it would be against the regulations of the worldwide whaling commision but if it's a hybrid there are no rules that have been broken".

Gísli Arnór Víkingsson at the Iceland Marine Institute, said: "We heard about this odd whale straight away and an employee reports that it's in many ways similar to a hybrid which has been brought to us quite a lot recently which is unusual".

Sea Shepherd UK's Chief Operating officer Robert Read demanded that DNA samples should be taken from from all the whale meat and parts in storage at Loftsson's whaling station and warehouses.

"It's bad enough that Iceland is already killing endangered fin whales, but it beggars belief that this whaling crew couldn't even tell the difference between a fin and blue whale". There are about 25,000 of them and 100,000 fin whales. "Hybrids are not a protected species".

"Iceland's whaling is rogue and archaic and should command diplomatic criticism at the highest levels".

The huge carcass was seen being hauled in to port by the Hvalur 8 ship while tied to the side of the vessel before being dragged on to the dock on Saturday evening. Blue whales and Fin whales are protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Prior to the catastrophic commercial whaling of the 20 century it is estimated that there were in the region of a quarter of a million blue whales, but their populations crashed in the 1950s and 60s.

Sea Shepherd founder Paul Watson, who has spent over a half a century defending whales, appealed to Icelandic authorities to stop Loftsson "from ruthlessly violating worldwide conservation law and bringing such disrepute to the nation of Iceland". "I know a blue whale when I see one and this whale slaughtered by Kristjan Loftsson is a blue whale". He is also an author and a lawyer.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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