Last month, Sea Shepherd sailed to the Faeroe Islands, a Danish Protectorate, to stop their notorious annual slaughter of endangered Pilot Whales. This atrocity is known as the “Grindadrap”, or the “Grind” for short. This was Sea Shepherd’s first return to the islands to actively intervene in over ten years.
In this year’s campaign, Sea Shepherd vessels, the Steve Irwin and the Brigitte Bardot (skippered by Sea Shepherd veteran, Locky Mclean), were down in the islands. Two Faeroese Nationals also joined Sea Shepherd’s efforts to stop the Grind, and boarded the Brigitte Bardot on July 19th in Torshavn Harbour. Sea Shepherd’s intentions in the Faeroe Islands were not to protest or speak out against the slaughter, but to use “aggressive non-violence” at the islands. This included deploying acoustical devices to make a barricade of sound in the path of the migrating Pilot Whales to lead them away from the islands. Sea Shepherd also intended to film and document the disgraceful activities in the Islands and share it with the public to create awareness; this has been highly effective in campaigns to stop whaling.
Days before departure, the Steve Irwin, Sea Shepherd’s flagship vessel, was detained by a Maltese Fishing Company, Fish & Fish, who filed a civil suit. This suit claimed that Sea Shepherd damaged property that the fishing company claimed to own. Fish & Fish are referring to damage done to Bluefin tuna fishing gear by Sea Shepherd in 2010.
Sea Shepherd’s interceptor ship, the Brigitte Bardot arrived in the Faeroe Islands, but before the Steve Irwin could leave, Sea Shepherd had to post a bond for USD$1,411,692.87, or the flagship vessel will be detained and possibly sold. Two weeks later, the British Court set the bond to 520,000 British pounds (approximately $846,290 USD), and Sea Shepherd posted the bond from generous donations from Sea Shepherd supporters with just one minute to spare!
On June 21, Sea Shepherd’s interceptor ship, the Brigitte Bardot, investigated an enormous underwater Pilot Whale graveyard. The massive, secret underwater graveyard was first discovered during last year’s Operation Grind Stop campaign by Sea Shepherd France President Lamya Essemlali, currently onboard the Brigitte Bardot. The Pilot Whale carcasses are discarded into this crevice after grinds in Vestmanna and Leynar. This secret graveyard is 20 meters underwater. Sea Shepherd divers, Simon Ager and Beck Straussner dove down into this crevice to confirm this secret graveyard. Local household and industrial waste is also discarded on this cliff face. “The Faroese claim that the grind is a beautiful, religious rite of passage. But at the same time, they discard the bodies of these beautiful creatures into a trash pit that also contains tractor and generator parts amongst other industrial waste,” said Ager.
Sea Shepherd continued its patrols of the islands searching for pilot whales during Operation Ferocious Isles, “a campaign designed to defend and protect pilot whales,” and got fantastic results. Last year, about 668 whales were slaughtered in July and August. This year, however, not a single whale’s blood has been shed the two months the Sea Shepherd vessels were in the Faeroe Islands because the Faeroese police ordered that no pilot whale slaughtering was permitted until Sea Shepherd left Faeroese waters. Therefore, like in anti-whaling campaigns, Sea Shepherd’s presence thwarted the senseless slaughter, saving hundreds of whales. There was a possibility that whales may be killed after the Steve Irwin and the Brigitte Bardot leave patrol, but June, July, and August, the three most infamous months for the grind because they are at the height of the pilot whale migration months.
Sea Shepherds objective was “to prevent the killing of any whales during this period and that objective has been realized, therefore, Operation Ferocious Isles has been extraordinarily successful” The other positive outcomes this campaign had was it sparked the opposition of the grind in the Faeroe Islands and gave people awareness all over the globe, which increased the spending of the Danish Navy and police during Sea Shepherd’s patrol, and most prominently, prevented a single grind from occurring in their presence.
However, after Sea Shepherd departed, due to a limited budget, 50-100 helpless pilot whales were viciously slaughtered indiscriminately slaughtered after being driven into an inlet at Vestmanna at around noon on September 2nd. The innocent lives lost that day have justified Sea Shepherd’s existence and strategies that were deployed in this year’s campaign.
“They will now sit down to their mercury poisoned meal of whale flesh and blubber and they will snigger and boast of the lives they have so cruelly taken,” said Chief Cook and crewmember Laura Dakin of Australia. “It is easy to kill the defenseless, the babies and mothers, so easy to massacre creatures that can’t fight back. These men are pathetic cowards.”
“I think that the Faeroese whalers are craven cowards,” said Captain Paul Watson, vindicating the above statement. “They did not kill a single whale when we were there. They waited, knowing we would eventually have to leave, and within a week of our departure, they resumed their grisly and barbaric ritual of cruel and horrific slaughter. I have only one word to describe these killers and that word is – cowards.”
After the significant success of this year’s campaign while the Sea Shepherds were present, Sea Shepherd is already making plans to return again in 2012 to defend the defenseless.