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Sea Shepherd

Established in 1977, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS) is an international non-profit, marine wildlife conservation organization. Our mission is to end the destruction of habitat and slaughter of wildlife in the world’s oceans in order to conserve and protect ecosystems and species.

Sea Shepherd uses innovative direct-action tactics to investigate, document, and take action when necessary to expose and confront illegal activities on the high seas. By safeguarding the biodiversity of our delicately-balanced ocean ecosystems, Sea Shepherd works to ensure their survival for future generations.

Sea Shepherd is not verified as a 501(c)3 organization.

Latest News

Aug 31, 2014

Sea Shepherd Crewmembers Arrested For Intervening Against Brutal Faroese Pilot Whale ‘Grind’ Hunt

Denmark, an Anti-Whaling Member Nation of the European Union, Shows Support for Slaughter of Whales

Sea Shepherd land team volunteers being held in a police van Sea Shepherd land team volunteers being held in a police van
Photo: Sea Shepherd
Fourteen Sea Shepherd Conservation Society volunteer crewmembers of pilot whale defense campaign Operation GrindStop 2014 were arrested today on the Faroese island of Sandoy, as they entered the water to defend pilot whales from the brutal mass slaughter known as “grindadrap” or “grind” – putting themselves directly between a pod of 33 whales and their killers.

Despite being a member nation of the European Union and subject to laws prohibiting the slaughter of cetaceans, Denmark has officially shown its support of — and now direct collaboration with — the Faroese whalers by sending the Danish Navy to defend this archaic, mass slaughter of whales in the Faroe Islands alongside Faroese police.

Sea Shepherd was on the scene immediately with both the land team and small boat crews present. However, the pilot whale pod was driven in by boats from very close to shore, and there was little time to prevent the slaughter.

Sea Shepherd has confirmed that six members of its onshore team as well as eight members of the small boat team have been arrested. In addition, three Sea Shepherd small boats – Loki, the Mike Galesi, and the B.S. Sheen (sponsored by actor Charlie Sheen) – have all been seized by the Danish Navy.

Among the Sea Shepherd volunteers arrested was Sergio Toribio of Spain, who endured a violent assault in the Faroe Islands just last weekend. Sergio was pulled from a car where he was monitoring for the presence of pilot whales along with a fellow Sea Shepherd volunteer, and was punched repeatedly in the face and suffered a broken finger. Sergio responded admirably, only trying to cover his face, and showing no violence in return.

Members of the Sea Shepherd boat team are arrested and taken away by Danish Navy helicopter Members of the Sea Shepherd boat team are arrested and taken away by
Danish Navy helicopter
Photo: Sea Shepherd
“The Faroese whalers brutally slaughtered an entire pod of 33 pilot whales today — several generations taken from the sea — and Denmark is complicit in the killing,” said actor Charlie Sheen. “I am proud that a vessel bearing my name was there and did all it could to try to stop this atrocity.”

Sheen added, "The 40-foot Zodiac called the 'BS SHEEN' that I donated to Mr. Watson's tireless and heroic efforts, has been shamefully seized. This level of insidious and vicious corruption must be dealt with swiftly and harshly."

“I am extremely proud of Sea Shepherd volunteers who for 85 days have patrolled day and night to protect the dolphins and whales in the waters around the Faroe Islands. Denmark has no business in the anti-whaling European Union if it is going to sanction and enable the Danish Navy to protect these killers,” said Sea Shepherd Founder Captain Paul Watson.

Here is an excerpt from a commentary about the horrific slaughter written by Captain Watson titled “Slaughter and Loathing on Sandoy as 33 Whales Die in Agony, and Nine Sea Shepherd Volunteers are Arrested by Faroese Police and Danish Navy.”

“…Now that this slaughter has taken place, we can mention that over the last 85 days, Sea Shepherd boat crews have deflected three pods of whales away from the island before the killers could spot them. Unfortunately covering 18 islands is a difficult task, but I am proud of the fact that our volunteers saved those whales and made a valiant attempt to save these 33.

The positive side of this encounter is we now have evidence to implicate the Danish government and Sea Shepherd will take this evidence to the European Parliament to demand that action be taken against Denmark for collaboration with an illegal slaughter of whales. No European member of the EU may be involved with whaling, and although the Faroe Islands are not a member of the EU, they receive massive subsidies from the EU through Denmark. The Faroese may be exempt but Denmark is not and now we have the evidence that pilot whale blood in on the hands of Danish sailors and Danish Police. What is rotten in the Faroes is also very much rotten in Denmark.”

Members of the Sea Shepherd boat team are arrested and taken away by Danish Navy helicopter Members of the Sea Shepherd boat team are arrested and taken away by Danish Navy helicopter
Photo: Sea Shepherd
CALL TO ACTION: Sea Shepherd calls upon all of its supporters to speak out against this horrific loss of life. Please contact the government of Denmark and ask them to end the horrific, archaic ‘grind’ and release Sea Shepherd volunteers at once.

In the U.S., please contact:
The Embassy of Denmark

3200 Whitehaven St. NW
Washington, DC 20008
(202) 234-4300

You may also contact the Danish Foreign Ministry directly with your complaints by calling overseas at: 011 45 33 92 0000 or send an e-mail to

To contact the Faroe Islands directly, you may reach out to:
Prime Minister Kaj Leo Johannessen
Prime Minister of the Faroe Islands
Foeroya Landsstyri Box 64, FR – 110
Torshavn Faroe Islands.
Tel: +298 351010
Fax: +298 351015

Sea Shepherd is seeking additional volunteers to join the team in the Faroe Islands for the last month of campaign. The deadline for campaign applications is September 10th at 5 pm EST. Anyone interested in volunteering should complete and submit the application found at this link:

Grindstop 2014 On-Shore Crew Application.

Operation GrindStop
Visit our
Operation GrindStop 2014
site for more information.

Aug 30, 2014

Flesh From Beached Bottlenose Whales Slaughtered and Butchered Yesterday was Dumped at Sea Today by Faroese Whale Killers

Sea Shepherd’s Drone Force Captures Images of Wasteful Dumping of Meat from these Rare Whales; Proves the Whalers Do Not Need to Continue Killing Cetaceans for Food

Discarded remnants of the bottlenose whale butcheringDiscarded remnants of the bottlenose whale butcheringOn the heels of yesterday’s horrific butchering of five rather rare Northern bottlenose whales who had beached themselves in the Faroe Islands, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has discovered that a good portion of flesh from these whales — meat that the Faroese whalers claim they eat — was today dumped back into the ocean for no apparent reason.

Upon learning that the whale meat was being dumped off a remote cliff, Sea Shepherd onshore volunteers sent up a drone to capture images and footage of the remains of these once living, sentient whales now reduced to a pile of flesh floating on the surface of the sea. Near the squarely butchered sheets of blubber floating in the water, a large fin sliced from one of the whales could be seen. As the team documented their find, a Faroese individual approached and dumped more meat over the cliff, and several additional people came by as well, only to immediately turn around and leave so as not to risk having their photo taken by Sea Shepherd while in the act of dumping their whale meat.

“There are only an estimated 10,000 Northern bottlenose whales left swimming the sea. It was tragic enough for five of them to strand, but they were unlucky enough to strand on the shores of the Ferocious Isles — where instead of any attempt at rescue, they were quickly slaughtered, butchered and their flesh thrown away as though mere garbage,” said Sea Shepherd Founder, Captain Paul Watson.

“Once again, the whale killers show a complete disregard for the lives of these majestic creatures. If they needed whale meat to survive, as they claim in their arguments for the brutal mass slaughter they call the “grind,” this meat would not have been discarded into the sea,” added Captain Watson.

The five bottlenose whales were found by fisherman early Thursday morning, stranded on the killing beach at Hvalba on the Faroese Island of Suduroy. Rather than make any attempt to save the pod, knife-wielding Faroese whale killers slaughtered and butchered the defenseless, stranded whales. Though Sea Shepherd volunteers were blocked from approaching the scene, they were able to document as the whales were butchered and their meat transported. According to reports, the whales were still alive when they were found, as the whalers severed the whales’ spinal cords to kill them before they were towed for butchering. The same method is used to kill pilot whales and other species in the Faroese grind hunts.

Faroese regulations allow for the killing of beached bottlenose whales only if they cannot be rescued and driven back out to sea. Sea Shepherd is consulting with an attorney and police to determine if the whalers have violated these regulations. It is unknown whether the whales could have been saved, but it appears that there were no attempts to try to do so.

Sea Shepherd condemns this heinous waste of life, as well as the “grindadrap” mass slaughter of pilot whales and dolphins. Sea Shepherd is calling on the Faroe Islands to end its outdated and cruel massacre of cetaceans.

Sea Shepherd has led the opposition against the slaughter of cetaceans in the Faroe Islands since the 1980s, and today our goal remains the same: to bring the archaic grind to a complete stop. Launched in June, Operation GrindStop 2014, is Sea Shepherd’s largest Faroe Islands campaign to date. The multi-national land- and sea-based campaign features hundreds of volunteers who will be present in the Faroe Islands over the course of four months to defend pilot whales and other species of small cetaceans from the brutal and archaic mass slaughter known as “grindadrap” or the “grind.” To date, no grinds have taken place while Sea Shepherd has patrolled the islands. Should a grind commence at any time during the campaign, Sea Shepherd volunteers are prepared to intervene to save our clients.

CALL TO ACTION: Sea Shepherd is seeking additional volunteers to join the team in the Faroe Islands for the last month of campaign. The deadline for campaign applications is September 10th at 5 pm EST. Anyone interested in volunteering should complete and submit the application found at this link:

A discarded fin could be seen floating in the waterA discarded fin could be seen floating in the water

All that remained of the bottlenose whalesAll that remained of the bottlenose whales

The whale killers show a disregard for life, dumping the whale meatThe whale killers show a disregard for life, dumping the whale meat

Whale meat scattered in the waters of the Faroe IslandsWhale meat scattered in the waters of the Faroe Islands

Operation GrindStop
Visit our
Operation GrindStop 2014
site for more information.

Aug 30, 2014

Five Beached Bottlenose Whales Slaughtered by Whale Killers in the Faroe Islands

Sea Shepherd Documented the Scene, as the Stranded Whales Were Butchered

Bottlenose whale heads in transportBottlenose whale heads in transportIn the early hours of yesterday morning, five bottlenose whales were found stranded on the Faroese island of Suduroy. In most places around the world, cetaceans who are stranded in shallow waters are given a helping hand by humans and ushered back out to sea. However, rather than make an attempt to rescue the beached pod, knife-wielding Faroese whalers killed and butchered the stranded, helpless whales, turning the bay to a sea of blood.

Sea Shepherd Conservation Society — with a crew of offshore volunteers led by Sea Shepherd France and a team of onshore volunteers led by Sea Shepherd USA, all present in the Faroes to defend pilot whales from the brutal mass slaughter known as the Grind — could have helped in any efforts to save these whales from a needless death. Unfortunately, they were blocked from approaching the scene. The whales were found by fisherman around 5:30 am on the killing beach of Hvalba on Suduroy Island.

Sea Shepherd volunteers eventually got through the barriers and were able to take photographs and film as the whales were butchered onshore. According to reports, the whales were still alive when they were found, as the whalers severed the whales’ spinal cords to kill them before they were towed for butchering. The same method is used to kill pilot whales and other species in the Faroese grind hunts.

The shocking images and footage captured by Sea Shepherd show the brutality of the whale killers, who smiled as the whales were reduced to butchered meat and their enormous heads were lined up in bins. After the bodies were butchered, the heads were trucked to Torshavn for what is believed to be rendering, with Operation GrindStop volunteers following and filming the entire way.

The stranded whales were reduced to butchered meatThe stranded whales were reduced to butchered meat“The population of these rather rare Northern bottlenose whales is believed to be no more than 10,000. The loss of any of these vanishing whales is tragic,” said Sea Shepherd Founder, Captain Paul Watson. “If they could have been saved, to slaughter these whales in need was the ultimate betrayal and, frankly, nothing short of murder.”

Faroese regulations allow for the killing of beached bottlenose whales only if they cannot be rescued and driven back out to sea. Sea Shepherd is consulting with an attorney and police to determine if the whalers have violated these regulations.

Faroese locals have told Sea Shepherd that it is common for bottlenose whales to strand at Hvalba, and it is believed by some that ocean currents in the area could cause this to happen. It is also more difficult to rescue stranded whales of this size than it is for dolphins or pilot whales, and their organs can be crushed under their weight if the whales are in shallow waters for too long. We cannot be certain that the whales could be saved, but it appears that there were no attempts to do so.

Another possible cause of the stranding is seismic testing. Currently, extensive seismic testing is being conducted between the Shetland and Faroe Islands. Many species of marine mammals are vulnerable to the effects of such testing and sonar, but the family of beaked whales, of which the Northern bottlenose whale is a member, is particularly susceptible.

It is possible, due to the large number of bottlenose whale strandings that occur in this region and the current seismic testing, that there will be more strandings in the Faroe Islands. Sea Shepherd is calling for the Faroes to take a reasonable and compassionate route in response to any future strandings on their shores. In the case of any beached whales who could not be saved, a necropsy should be performed to determine the cause of death if possible. Everywhere in the world, it is standard that strandings are investigated – and seismic testing being conducted in the region should be a red flag.

Especially in the case of these Northern bottlenose whales, members of a vanishing population, to slaughter them for human consumption without any attempt at rescue – or even a necropsy – was shamefully irresponsible.

Sea Shepherd is ready and willing to offer assistance to the Faroese in any attempts made to save whales if a stranding should occur.

Sea Shepherd volunteers followed and documented as the meat was transportedSea Shepherd volunteers followed and documented as the meat was transportedSea Shepherd has led the opposition against the slaughter of cetaceans in the Faroe Islands since the 1980s, and today our goal remains the same: to bring the archaic grind to a complete stop. Launched in June, Operation GrindStop 2014, is Sea Shepherd’s largest Faroe Islands campaign to date. The multi-national land- and sea-based campaign features hundreds of volunteers who will be present in the Faroe Islands over the course of four months to defend pilot whales and other species of small cetaceans from the brutal and archaic mass slaughter known as “grindadrap” or the “grind.” To date, no grinds have taken place while Sea Shepherd has patrolled the islands. Should a grind commence at any time during the campaign, Sea Shepherd volunteers are prepared to intervene to save our clients.

Sea Shepherd is seeking additional volunteers to join the team in the Faroe Islands for the last month of campaign. The deadline for campaign applications is September 10th at 5 pm EST. If you are interested in volunteering, please complete and submit the application found at this link:

Operation GrindStop
Visit our
Operation GrindStop 2014
site for more information.

Aug 29, 2014

WA Government ignores their own science and now their own survey to carry out shark cull

  • WA Government withholds information from Federal Environment Minister
  • Marketforce survey made available

Tiger shark caught in drum lineTiger shark caught in drum line

Sea Shepherd knew that the WA Government ignored their commissioned report of 2012 by the Bond University, that stated that due to the environmental impacts of shark control activities, it is not recommended that either shark nets or drum-lines be introduced into WA. Baited drum-lines and shark nets do not guarantee that beaches are free of sharks of a size or species that pose a risk to humans.

However, what Sea Shepherd didn’t know was that the WA Government ignored their own community perceptions survey, which was part of a $968,334 contract awarded to Marketforce.

Jeff Hansen, Managing Director of Sea Shepherd Australia is utterly dismayed Premier Barnett’s conduct stating, “what is clear is that WA Premier Colin Barnett and the WA Government have omitted information that the public paid for presumably because the results of the survey do not meet its agenda to catch and kill sharks.”

PDFCommunity Perceptions Research – May 2013 by Marketforce, Metrix

Back in April 2013, the Marketforce survey found that the majority (over 80%) of Western Australians believed culling was not the answer (page 55). The survey also illustrated that the majority of Western Australians believe that the responsibility for ensuring beach safety against sharks, lies with the individual, not the Government. In fact, in relation to reduced beach usage, only two percent (2%) of the 565 metro survey respondents reported they used beaches less due to fear of shark attack – none of the 203 SW regional survey respondents mentioned sharks as a reason for using the beach/ocean less often (page 11).

Back in January 2014, when Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt granted the exemption to the WA Government to kill protected species, his reasons detailed, "substantial public concern about the safety of water based activities in WA", and that a "loss of confidence in water-based activities impacts on tourism and other leisure-based businesses impacting on the Australian economy, making this a matter of national significance.” However this Marketforce survey completely negates these statements by Minister Hunt, with 67% in the Perth metropolitan and 83% in the regions increasing or maintaining the frequency of beach use during the two years prior to the study, which was when there was a random cluster of shark incidents.

PDFFederal Minister Greg Hunt’s reasons for providing exemption

One might ask that given the Marketforce survey, how can Minister Hunt come up with these reasons above to grant an exemption? The answer is simple, that when the WA Government wrote to the Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt, for an exemption from Federal environment laws to kill protected species, the Marketforce survey was withheld. Sea Shepherd can confirm that our Federal Environment Minister, Greg Hunt was not made aware of the Marketforce survey.

Several requests were made to the Department of Fisheries regarding the Community Perceptions Research, which strangely and coincidently is not available publicly, despite the public paying close to $1 million for this survey and a community engagement strategy to be undertaken.

However, Sea Shepherd has obtained a copy of the survey that the government previously provided to the press in mid-2013, before the survey report became “confidential.” (pdfLink).

“Given the results of the WA Governments own survey, the question must be posed to Premier Colin Barnett, who is this silent majority you keep referring to that support the killing of sharks?” Hansen asked.

“So if there is no science backing the cull, and the majority of Western Australians are against it, what justification does that WA Government have to continue with their shark cull?

Hawaii tried culling sharks for 18 years and it made no difference to shark related incidents. The science does not back the cull and the majority of Western Australians do not back the cull.

“The WA Government is ignoring the science, ignoring the publics wishes and it has withheld information from the Federal Environment Minister to bully ahead with its agenda to cull sharks”, said Jeff Hansen, Managing Director, Sea Shepherd Australia.

“Its time that the WA Government backed alternatives that assists with beach users safety without killing marine life. We don’t have to choose between the protecting human life or sharks, we can do both, with alternatives available today that actually work, because baited drum lines simply do not.”

*Email proving community perceptions survey is not publicly available. PDF

Aug 28, 2014

Woe to the Poor Whales that Get Stranded on a Beach in the Ferocious Isles

Commentary by Sea Shepherd Founder, Captain Paul Watson

Killers at work butchering the whalesKillers at work butchering the whalesLast night, five bottlenose whales (hyperoodon ampullatus) were stranded on the beach at Hvalba on the Faroese island of Suduroy. They were discovered this morning. Within minutes, bloodthirsty Faroese whalers were scrambling over the bodies like agitated maggots, to either kill them or cut them up.

We have determined through our documentation and inquiries that the whales were alive when discovered.

The whales could have been pulled back into the water and released; instead they were mercilessly killed and then towed to a nearby harbor to complete their butchery.

The evidence is clear that the whales were indeed alive when found, not only from observation but because the spinal cord on the whales was severed prior to them being towed to the harbor. If dead, there would have been no need for this particular cut, which the whalers brag about as being their “humane” way of killing a whale.

With our vessels we would have been in a position to rescue the whales by towing them back out to sea. The killers and the police prevented us from doing so.

Faroese regulations only allow the killing of bottlenose whales that have beached themselves and CANNOT be driven out to sea again.

Bottlenose whale heads lined up after butcheringBottlenose whale heads lined up after butcheringWe will be consulting with an attorney and with the police to investigate if charges can be brought against the killers for violation of the regulations pertaining to the beaching of bottlenose whales. The bet is they will have a veterinarian who will sign off that the whales could not be saved.

Long-term statistics indicate that the most frequent beachings are in the villages of Hvalba and Sandvík on Suðuroy.

The whales were discovered at 0530 hours (5:30am).

The beach is isolated and difficult to monitor and the weather and seas were nasty, but despite the conditions Sea Shepherd offshore volunteers were able to get the fast boat Loki to the harbor within 30 minutes, in time to film the whales being butchered. The killers were strutting about - all smiles along with the cops - the entire lot feeling proud and self-righteous that they had just destroyed five beautiful creatures without a modicum or remorse or regret.

The population of Northern bottlenose whales is thought to not number more than 10,000.

Beautiful blue waters of the Faroes turned red with the bloodBeautiful blue waters of the Faroes
turned red with the blood
The Northern bottlenose whale is listed on Appendix II [8] of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) [9]. It is listed on Appendix II [8] as it has an unfavorable conservation status or would benefit significantly from international cooperation organized by tailored agreements.

In addition, the Northern bottlenose whale is covered by the Agreement on the Conservation of Small Cetaceans of the Baltic, North East Atlantic, Irish and North Seas (ASCOBANS) [10], and the Memorandum of Understanding Concerning the Conservation of the Manatee and Small Cetaceans of Western Africa and Macaronesia (Western African Aquatic Mammals MoU).

All great conservation news for the Northern Bottlenose dolphin, except if they are unlucky enough to be stranded on a beach within killing distance of the knife-wielding psychopaths of Suduroy.

Operation GrindStop
Visit our
Operation GrindStop 2014
site for more information.

Aug 27, 2014

Playing Fair with the Faroese

Commentary by Sea Shepherd Founder, Captain Paul Watson

Captain Paul Watson and Lamya Essemlali in the Faroes, 2011Captain Paul Watson and Lamya Essemlali in the Faroes, 2011Over the past two months, a few hundred Sea Shepherd volunteers have come to the Faroe Islands. It is not an easy place to reach and it is expensive to get there, and even more expensive to stay there. Yet these volunteers have come from more than thirty different nations at their own expense, all united by one common goal - and that is to stop the slaughter of pilot whales and dolphins in the Faroe Islands.

These volunteers have been described by some in the Faroe Islands as “invaders,” although they all entered through the proper legal channels at legal ports of entry.

It is however understandable that their arrival could provoke animosity in some citizens. The presence of Sea Shepherd volunteers brings unfavorable attention to the Faroe Islands and the images of blood-drenched men wading in blood-stained waters, stabbing and killing pilot whales, are deeply disturbing to people around the world. We have found that it is deeply disturbing to many people in the Faroe Islands as well.

Despite all the negativity, Sea Shepherd volunteers have met many Faroese people who do not support the killing and they have met some Faroese people who do support the killing yet are open to discussions about this thing they call the “Grind.”

Generally speaking the people of the Faroe Islands are polite and peaceful, and sometimes after meeting many of them it is even more difficult to understand how something as horrific as the Grindadrap can exist there.

The people we have met on the street and visited in their houses do not seem any different than anyone we meet elsewhere. They can be wonderfully kind and amazingly open to other points of view.

We have also been impressed with the fairness and the professionalism of the Faroese police. They do take the concerns of Sea Shepherd volunteers seriously and they do respond.

Case in point: Last weekend Sea Shepherd Spain volunteer, Sergio Toribio was assaulted on the island of Sandoy. The police immediately responded, an investigation was initiated, and the suspect was detained and is being held in pre-trial custody.

And as it turns out the man not only assaulted Sergio, but also has assaulted a Faroese man over another matter, and thus it seems it was an act of an angry individual that really had little to do with whale killing.

Yes, there are insults directed at Sea Shepherd volunteers and petty acts of vandalism against Sea Shepherd property but so far nothing aggressively violent. Many supporters of the whale killing seem content to unleash their anger in fabricating stories about Sea Shepherd volunteers stealing everything from toilet paper to beer - although none of it has a shred of evidence and there have been no complaints of theft to the police.

One volunteer who broke a cardinal Sea Shepherd rule about possession of drugs (marijuana) was arrested and deported and Sea Shepherd agreed with the police that as he committed a crime, it was proper to deport him. Of course this led to a flurry of accusations that Sea Shepherd volunteers are all drug addicts. However one indiscretion amongst some 300 volunteers is hardly the basis for a mass condemnation.

But we understand that it is human nature to do so. Many of our supporters made the mistake of condemning the Faroese for the act of a single individual who assaulted one of our volunteers.

I can honestly say that the atmosphere on the ground in the Faroes is far more civilized and safer than the times we opposed sealing in Canada. There, we were routinely attacked and often beaten, and the police and the Coast Guard made no pretense of impartiality. In fact we were sometimes beaten by the police and the Coast Guard. Amazingly, the former Canadian Fisheries Minister, Brian Tobin said that he understood the frustrations of Canadian sealers who resorted to violence against anti-sealing advocates.

I can honestly say that the police in the Faroes are far more objective and fair than the police in Japan, where dolphin defenders have been physically attacked in the presence of the police who did nothing, and where a Sea Shepherd volunteer was framed in an assault charge on the mere say-so of a Japanese citizen. He was found not guilty when the judge decided the accuser was simply not credible. He was released after two months in jail although the government had to afterwards pay compensation for a false arrest.

I myself have referred to the killers of the whales as psychopaths and that is an accusation I stand by. However it has been misunderstood by many that I made this accusation against all Faroese citizens. I did not.

Sea Shepherd volunteer in the FaroesSea Shepherd volunteer in the FaroesSea Shepherd does not and has never opposed people simply on the basis of their nationality, ethnicity, race or beliefs. We oppose the killing of marine wildlife, specifically on legal and ethical grounds.

It is our position that killing whales and dolphins is akin to murder. We believe it to be a highly unethical crime against nature and humanity. That is the sole reason we are in the Faroe Islands. When some Faroese people who opposed the killing came to us with a complaint that our logo incorporating the Faroese flag was something they found offensive, we responded by immediately redesigning the logo to remove the Faroese flag. We did not argue with them. We respected their concerns.

We understand that the entire issue of the Grind is highly emotional and that the support of the Grind has its roots deep in Faroese culture.

However we have no choice but to oppose it because of our dedication to our position of opposing the killing of all cetaceans worldwide by anyone, anywhere.

We do not discriminate in our opposition. We have opposed whaling and dolphin killing in Norway, Iceland, Japan (both in Japan and in the Southern Ocean), in Russia (the former Soviet Union), in Spain, Scotland, Australia, South Africa, the USA (the Makah whaling initiative that we stopped), Portugal, and the Faroes.

Sea Shepherd is not an American group. We are an international movement and each and every Sea Shepherd group is an independent entity united by a common cause. When told to go home, our answer is that the ocean is the life support system for all of humanity and therefore protecting bio-diversity in our Ocean is a part of our collective home.

There is also the mistaken impression held by some in the Faroes that I am the leader and organizer of GrindStop 2014. I am not.

The Sea Shepherd opposition to the Grind was initiated in 1983 by David McColl of Sea Shepherd Scotland. I did lead campaigns in 1985, 1986, 2000 and 2011. Lamya Essemlali of France led the campaign in 2010, and this year the campaign is being led by Lamya on the water and by Rosie Kunneke from South Africa as leader of the land-based volunteer team.

My role is simply to write commentaries.

We are not picking on the Faroe Islands as some critics have indicated. Presently we have active campaigns underway in Australia, Belgium, China, Ecuador (Galapagos) Italy, Japan, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Brazil, the USA (Oregon and Hawaii), Canada, Cape Verde and West Africa, and the Faroes.

Some of our supporters have been harsh in their comments about the Faroe Islands and some of these comments have been unfairly directed towards all Faroese. These comments, however, do not reflect the position of Sea Shepherd, for we do not oppose nor are we interested in opposing the Faroese for being Faroese. We oppose only the whale killers.

At the same time, we do not attribute the insults and threats directed at us from those who support the slaughter to all Faroese people. We know where they are coming from and thus they are irrelevant, just as those who insult the Faroese as a people are irrelevant.

Some argue that we bring shame and disgrace to the Faroes. We would argue that it is the whale killers who bring shame and disgrace to the Faroese people, and they will be doing more damage by bringing pro-whaling and pro-dolphin killing Japanese to the islands - and even more so if they allow them to participate in the slaughter.

We will of course seize on that as an opportunity to show that the Japanese who have been found guilty of illegal whaling by the International Court of Justice will be in an alliance with the Faroese whalers. And the images of Japanese dolphin killers alongside Faroese pilot whale butchers will be powerful indeed. However we hope that the Faroese whalers will not be silly enough to give us the opportunity to exploit such complicity. But if they do, we will.

And as for the arguments about numbers, questions about the humaneness of the slaughter, and cultural rights, etc. Well none of these are really relevant to Sea Shepherd. Both sides have opinions. The whalers say that there are plenty of whales. In our opinion they are endangered, in no small part because all life in our oceans is endangered by so many negative factors - from overfishing to pollution. The whalers say that the killing is humane. We do not think it is possible to humanely kill a whale, and besides, the method of killing is secondary to the killing itself. And as for culture, well cultures need to adapt or die and any cultural rite or ritual that is dependent upon cruelty and death should be tossed into the dustbin of humanity’s very shameful history.

Our crewmembers have met with many young people, especially at events like the Klaksvik Music Festival and have made many friends. Lamya Essemlali, the President of Sea Shepherd France, is trying to organize a soccer game between young Faroese people and young volunteers from Sea Shepherd.

The point of this article, however, is simply this: It is the position of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society that we oppose the slaughter of the pilot whales and dolphins in the Faroes by Faroese whale killers and we do so without prejudice. We hold no animosity towards the Faroese people and we believe that other than the Grind, the Faroese people enjoy a remarkably peaceful and admirable lifestyle. The country is exceptionally green and beautiful, and the oceans are pristine and blue - and will be even more so when the color red is permanently removed from the beaches and the water.

Keep the waters blue and the Faroes will be seen as a jewel of a nation where people may come to experience what I have experienced over the years – a country of profound natural beauty and fairytale majesty.

Operation GrindStop
Visit our
Operation GrindStop 2014
site for more information.

Aug 22, 2014

Captain Paul Watson Responds to a Pro-whaling Faroese Editorial

Commentary by Captain Paul Watson

Pilot whales gather behind the Brigitte BardotPilot whales gather behind the Brigitte Bardot
Photo: Sea Shepherd
It is always such fun to respond to writers who defend the barbarity of whaling. They always seem so self-righteous, as if killing a whale is some sort of noble heroic endeavor, when in reality any coward with a harpoon, a knife or a spear can slaughter such a defenseless sentient being. This time it is Elin Brimheim Heinesen.

The article:


Cultural clashes make Sea Shepherd campaign counterproductive

Perceived disrespectful behavior on the behalf of activist groups like Sea Shepherd only entrenches resistance to their efforts.

Elin Brimheim Heinesen: In the old days the Faroese killed pilot whales, because they needed the food. Nowadays the Faroese still kill pilot whales – not only because they need the food – but also to prove to them selves that they are Faroese. What people eat becomes intrinsic to their identity as people. And this might probably be an even greater need than the need for this particular food. It seems very difficult for the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society to understand that their highly visible and provocative presence in the Faroes for the time being only strengthens this need even further. The Grindstop campaign is therefore highly counterproductive.

Captain Paul Watson: Precisely, they killed whales because they needed the food. Today, they do not need to eat whales. The Faroese enjoy one of the highest standards of living on the planet. They don’t need to steal whales from the sea. What Sea Shepherd Conservation Society does not understand is any rationale for murdering an intelligent, self-aware, socially complex, sentient being. All psychopaths rationalize their crimes, and whaling - especially the way it is conducted in the Faroes - is psychotic behavior. What the whalers fail to understand is that Sea Shepherd’s objective is to expose this atrocity to the world. Sea Shepherd cannot end the killing and we have never pretended that we could, but building up global awareness and working to construct a strong political and economic base will lead to economic, diplomatic and political pressure that will be effective.

What the whalers fail to understand is that Sea Shepherd is not in the Faroes attempting to convince the Faroese to stop killing whales. It’s hard, if not impossible, to change the psyche of a committed killer. No, our targets are the people off the island - the people of Europe, the Americas, Asia, Africa and Australia. It is for this reason that the volunteers have come to the Faroes from more than 30 different nations.

Elin Brimheim Heinesen: Especially in this day and age, where globalisation threatens indigenous or local cultures everywhere all over the world, it has become very important for many to hold on to what is left of their distinct cultural identity with even greater determination.

Captain Paul Watson: The Faroese abandoned their rights to a culture that practices ritualized slaughter when they embraced technology and all the benefits of civilization. In fact, the people of the Faroes have all of the benefits of globalization. Sea Shepherd has nothing against retaining cultural rights except when they infringe on the rights of other species. The rights of a species take precedence over the rights of any specific culture.

Elin Brimheim Heinesen: Despite the Faroe Islands’ relative remote location, the Faroese people have not been able to avoid globalisation. In fact, the Faroese people have welcomed globalisation and have become quite westernised and modern in most ways, but the Faroese have, at the same time still managed to preserve a great deal of their old cultural heritage – some of it unbroken for more than a thousand years.

Captain Paul Watson: The Faroese have never attempted to avoid globalization. They have embraced it in order to market their fish and to purchase the luxuries of civilization. There is nothing traditional about hunting down whales with modern motor-driven vessels or driving to the beaches to kill whales in automobiles. In the past the Faroese killed whales out of necessity. Today, it is done for fun, and we have all seen the joy of the whalers as they wallow in blood and gore or invite their children to poke and mutilate the corpses of whales.

Elin Brimheim Heinesen: The Faroese are very proud of the fact that they to a great extent have managed to let their modern lifestyle coexist in harmony with their old inherited life style. They are proud of the fact that they – in contrast to many other modern cultures – have managed to preserve basic values from a time, where life was much simpler, which also makes their culture as unique as it is, and they don’t want to loose what they regard as this very valuable and important part of their cultural identity.

Captain Paul Watson: There is no reason for any culture to retain practices that inflict suffering and death. If Catalonia can give up the bullfight, the Faroes should be able to give up murdering whales. Today, life is not so simple and there is a growing intolerance to the infliction of pain, suffering and death on highly intelligent, self-aware, sentient beings.

Elin Brimheim Heinesen: They certainly do NOT agree with foreigners who claim that certain parts of their culture - like the controversial pilot whaling – is a primitive and barbaric tradition. Seen from a Faroese perspective, people who claim so have been misinformed or just don’t understand the basics of life in the Faroes, probably because they are prejudiced, alienated city-dwellers with no real understanding of how it is to survive in a place where people live in a very close relationship with nature, and where most people are dependent on what they provide for themselves directly from nature’s larder.

We believe we have the ecological and ethical right to oppose cruelty and slaughter and the diminishment of life in the seaWe believe we have the ecological and ethical right to oppose cruelty and slaughter and the diminishment of life in the sea
Photo: Sea Shepherd / Bob Talbot
Captain Paul Watson: For most of the world’s people, the driving of dolphins onto beaches in an orgy of slaughter is considered quite primitive and barbaric. There is nothing to be misinformed about. The killing, the suffering and the extreme cruelty are self-evident. Also, it is clear that we are over-exploiting all the living species of our ocean. The oceans are dying, and wantonly massacring entire pods of whales demonstrates a profound disrespect for marine life and marine ecology.

I don’t buy this old propaganda about how the opponents of the slaughter are all alienated city dwellers. I, myself, was raised in an east coast Canadian fishing village, and have spent decades on the ocean. I have weathered some of the most hostile seas on the planet, and have worked in extremely hostile areas like Amazonia, the Arctic, the Antarctic, Africa and in war zones. Many of my crew have similar backgrounds. There simply is no truth to the accusation that we are alienated city dwellers. I also don’t believe living close to nature means killing puffins, sea gulls, whales, seals and plundering the ocean of fish. All these so-called close to nature communities around the world have placed practically every single commercially-fished species in a state of collapse. Collectively, they are destroying life in our seas.

Elin Brimheim Heinesen: Faroese mentality molded by tough circumstances When we meet other cultures, unfamiliar to us, and compare our culture to other cultures, we notice the differences between us and “the others” and the feeling and understanding of our own distinct identity grows stronger.

Captain Paul Watson: That is certainly a very true statement. There are very few cultures with practices as brutal as the Faroese Grind. There is the slaughter of dolphins in Japan, the massacre of baby seals in Namibia and Eastern Canada, and other atrocities scattered around the globe. Between Taiji, Japan and the Faroes, it is hard to say which one leads the list, but they both number one and two.

Elin Brimheim Heinesen: The Faroese are a very self-aware, proud and stoic people. On a daily basis, the Faroese seem to have a very individualistic mentality, but in times of crisis they have in fact a great willingness to help each other. Everyone is determined to do whatever it takes to protect and secure the survival of the community. Otherwise the Faroese would never have survived for so long on these remote islands.

Captain Paul Watson: Pride goeth before the fall. It is great that the Faroese people support each other but there is resistance to the Grind in the Faroes and we have seen it. The world is evolving and I have seen that evolution even in the Faroes from the first time I came to the Faroes in 1985, until the present. Changes have taken place and these changes have taken place because of outside pressure. No culture is an island entirely unto itself these days.

Elin Brimheim Heinesen: This strong Faroese mentality has been molded by the tough circumstances in this very small and remote place with a very harsh nature and a hostile climate, especially in the dark, stormy winters – a fact of life that makes the Faroese society quite vulnerable. This society has been ridden by countless crises since the beginning of time. It’s almost incomprehensible how people have managed to survive here for such a long time.

Captain Paul Watson: Well, not since the beginning of time but to be fair, a dozen or so centuries, and I agree it was a tough life for many of those centuries, but no longer. The people of the Faroes live a very comfortable and materially wealthy existence today, ranking amongst the world’s highest in per capita income. The only crisis remaining is the adherence to a barbarically cruel custom that should be tossed into the dustbin of history.

Elin Brimheim Heinesen: The fact is that all these recurrent threats from outside, that still occur from time to time – whether we’re talking about natural, economical or other threats – have unified the Faroese people in the most extraordinary way. The pilot whaling practice is an example of the special Faroese solidarity that lives on - it’s a communal effort and a way of providing free food for everyone leaving no one out, regardless of the person’s status in the society.

Captain Paul Watson: It may be free food, but to us, it is stolen from the sea with a horrendous price paid in suffering and waste. A living, swimming, beautiful whale is far more valuable to this planet than some unhealthy methyl-mercury-laced piece of meat. Nothing is taken from the sea for free. Diversity is weakened and thus interdependence is diminished. The whales pay the price with their suffering and their lives and that is a hellish price to pay so that a land-dwelling primate that does not even need the meat out of necessity can boast proudly the justification that it is a gift from God.

Elin Brimheim Heinesen: This strong solidarity, which is natural for the Faroese people to show each other has enabled the Faroese to tackle the most incredible challenges over and over again, to such an extent that they have even managed to multiply and thrive in this place – to be fair, sometimes with economic aid or loans from Denmark, which the Faroese always have paid back, with interest.

Captain Paul Watson: Perhaps it is time to pay back the whales with interest. They sustained the Faroese in their times of need. Good stewardship requires an acknowledgement to other species and most importantly consideration.

Elin Brimheim Heinesen: The Faroe Islands are still a part of the Danish kingdom, but this North Atlantic archipelago is it’s own nation with an extensive, independent home rule. Even though the Faroese have not (yet) chosen to leave the Danish Kingdom completely (mostly because of strong historical, cultural and family bonds) there is no doubt that the Faroese hold their national pride and self-determination in high regard. The strong self-reliance and proudness of the Faroese people is one of the reasons that the Faroese chose not to followDenmark into the EU in the early 70’s. They do not want to sacrifice their autonomy, which they have fought so much for, just to become puppets among other puppets of the Brussels administration.

This self-determination is in fact very significant for the Faroese. People who intend to have an impact on – or that want to change Faroese cultural values, will not succeed in their efforts, if they don’t understand these important factors of Faroese mentality.

Captain Paul Watson: We are well aware of the connection between Denmark and the Faroes, and we are also aware that the killing of whales is illegal under the laws of the European Union. Denmark is openly supporting the Grind with Special Forces and the Navy, and we intend to make a case of this before the European Union. The Faroes receive subsidies from Europe through Denmark. We believe there are grounds to challenge these subsidies if the Grind continues. But it is imperative to raise international consciousness of the slaughter. Our goal is to see that whenever anyone sees the Faroese flag or hears the name, the first image that will come to mind is of the blood-soaked beaches.

Elin Brimheim Heinesen: The Faroese will never tolerate being shamed by others It’s not that the Faroese want to isolate themselves totally from the rest of the world. Anyone who visits the islands notices how remarkably knowledgeable, literate and cosmopolitan in general most Faroese are. The Faroese certainly welcome foreigners and are willing to cooperate with anyone who, notably, shows them respect and has well-intended purposes.

Captain Paul Watson: It is not a question of tolerating it, it is a question of enduring it. We respect the Faroese in all aspects except one, and that is the ruthlessly vicious, inhumane slaughter of whales. That we will never respect, and it is our mission to see that growing numbers of people internationally also demonstrate their sincere disrespect for this part of the Faroese culture.

Elin Brimheim Heinesen: The Faroe Islands is one of the oldest democracies and most peaceful countries in the world. The Faroese are perfectly alright with the fact, that other people’s opinions might differ (even a lot) from theirs, and they are also always willing to discuss any issue with others in a respectful manner – yes, even willing to change some of their ways, IF other people have convincing arguments and, of course, ask them nicely.

Captain Paul Watson: Slaughtering thousands of whales on bloody beaches is not our idea of peaceful. It is horrifically violent. This is not a question of opinion. You have opinions on religion or politics. When it comes to slaughter, opinions mean nothing. A serial killer may have an opinion that satisfying his lust to kill is justifiable, but it is hardly relevant to those who oppose murder. As for asking nicely, we tried that route over two decades ago. I sat in Prime Minister Atli Dam’s office in 1986 and heard him say that the Grind was a gift from God, and any discussion about ending it would not be entertained. Thus, out of strategic necessity, we were forced to develop alternative strategies. Asking nicely achieved nothing. Been there, and done that to no avail.

Elin Brimheim Heinesen: What they don’t want, is to be overruled by others! They do NOT accept that others interfere with their affairs by coercively imposing their own values on the Faroese, acting as intruders, obviously with no interest in having a respectful dialogue, but mostly just throwing dirt and spreading sensationalist propaganda to attract international media attention, purposefully to create international outrage and thus hoping to put enough pressure on the Faroese to make them stop doing what they do.

Captain Paul Watson: Again our attempts at respectful dialogue were stymied from the beginning, but things have indeed changed and our volunteers on the ground are having respectful dialogues with many Faroese citizens. What you say is sensationalistic propaganda is simply a difference of opinion. We stand by the truth of all of our statements. We are not even attempting to put pressure on the Faroese whalers to stop. Our pressure is being applied elsewhere through international media attention, and international outrage because people should be outraged by this cruelty and this slaughter, and as we reach more and more people we are finding that they are indeed outraged.

Elin Brimheim Heinesen: But the Faroese will certainly NOT tolerate being demonized and shamed by others! The Faroese are not ashamed of who they are. On the contrary! They have never ever made a secret of what they do and how they live, and they have never been afraid of discussing openly about their ways with those, who oppose them.

Captain Paul Watson: None of us are demonizing the Faroese. We target only the killers. However, I notice that the Faroese media and many others have no hesitation in demonizing Sea Shepherd, and certainly myself. It does not bother me for the simple reason that change never comes without hostile reaction so it is to be expected.

Elin Brimheim Heinesen: The Faroese are a strong-minded people, not afraid to stand up for themselves and defend what they consider to be their legal, historical rights – even if their opponent is a 100 times larger or more. Just think of the recent herring and mackerel war between the EU and the Faroes, which the Faroese ended up winning.

Captain Paul Watson: The thousands of Sea Shepherd supporters and volunteers are also a strong-minded bunch and determined to defend the lives of marine species despite the risks involved in doing so. You may have won the right to kill more fish than you deserve to be killing, but it is simply a battle won in a war you will lose for the simple reason that the oceans are dying, seriously over-fished and heavily over-polluted with chemicals, oil, plastic, radiation and noise. I remember the Atlantic fisheries of the fifties and sixties and what you have today has been seriously diminished since then - and that diminishment will continue.

Elin Brimheim Heinesen: The Faroese hold on to their rights, but are willing to improve The Faroese are convinced that they have a right to make use of the natural resources in their own territory, including pilot whales. Theseresources have laid the foundation for the survival of the Faroese people for a very long time, and even though some claim that it is “not necessary” to kill pilot whales any more and that pilot whales are too contaminated to be fit for human consumption, the fact is that pilot whale meat and blubber – besides being a very important part of Faroese culture – still plays a big role in sustaining a healthy economy in the Faroe Islands, because this free food saves the Faroese from buying a lot of expensive foods, imported and transported (in vessels that pollute) from countries far away.

Captain Paul Watson: As I said before, it is not free food. The whales and the ocean are paying a price for it. But it is also a toxic food, and plain common sense should dictate that it should not go into your mouth. The vessel bringing meat and dairy products, vegetable and fruits will continue doing so no matter if the Grind continues or not. The Faroese are operating hundreds of vessels that pollute so it is silly to pretend that eating whale meat reduces pollution when even the act of driving the whales to the beaches requires the operation of boats and automobiles that pollute.

Elin Brimheim Heinesen: The Faroese believe that they have the sovereign right to decide if or when they should stop pilot whaling. They think that whale-saving efforts should rather be concentrated on stopping the pollution that threatens the oceans and the maritime foods the Faroese live on, among others the pilot whales.

Captain Paul Watson: We believe we have the ecological and ethical right to oppose cruelty and slaughter and the diminishment of life in the sea. Sea Shepherd is involved in opposing pollution with campaigns dedicated to addressing plastic pollution and researching the toxic impact of oil dispersants on sperm whales. In addition, we have campaigns opposing the poaching of sharks, other fishes, seals, turtles, sea birds and invertebrates. As for whales, we have tackled whaling since 1974, and quite effectively in many places around the globe. In fact, you might ask your Japanese guest who will be visiting the Faroes the first week in September just how effectively Sea Shepherd has dealt with their illegal whaling activities in the Southern Ocean.

Elin Brimheim Heinesen: The Faroese also have every reason to believe that they are perfectly fit to take care of this natural resource, because they have done so in a sustainable way ever since people inhabited this remote archipelago more than a thousand years ago. They have, in contrast to many other hunter-gatherer societies, kept records of their whale-catch since medieval times, and they continue to ensure the sustainability of this practice, constantly trying to improve their methods.

Captain Paul Watson: There is very little sustainable fishing, whaling or sealing done by anyone these days. The word “sustainable” is thrown around so much it has become meaningless. The oceanic eco-system worldwide is no longer sustainable.

Elin Brimheim Heinesen: The pilot whaling practice has, in fact, improved a lot, especially in later years – NOT because of recurrent confrontations with SSCS, but because of an increased knowledge among the Faroese, based on scientific facts, provided by, among others, the Faroese themselves, and because of convincing arguments put forward by sensible and credible people who understand the importance of a mutual respectful dialogue. Nowadays the Faroese do everything in their power to make sure that the whales don’t suffer more than necessary during the herding and killing process.

Captain Paul Watson: Actually our activities in the past did contribute to so-called improvements in killing procedures. We brought this to international attention in 1986 with the BBC documentary “Black Harvest,” and that film was very instrumental in helping to bring about these changes. The driving of the whales to the beaches is highly stressful and exceedingly cruel; the slaughter of whales being witnessed by family members in the pod is highly stressful and exceedingly cruel. The Grind remains a very cruel and grossly inhumane slaughter of highly evolved sentient beings.

Elin Brimheim Heinesen: So in the eyes of the Faroese, there is nothing others really can point their fingers at here. Especially not meat-eating people from countries with a polluting big farm industry, exploiting animals in the billions, which, seen through Faroese eyes, is a much more destructive and cruel practice than their own pilot whaling practice.

Captain Paul Watson: The meat sold in Faroese supermarkets comes from factory farms in Denmark - the same factory farms that have fed so much tonnage of sand eels to puffins that their populations have plummeted - and now, we have the ludicrous situation where chickens in Denmark eat more sand eels than all the world’s population of puffins. The Faroese participate in exploiting farm animals. On the other hand, Sea Shepherd does not participate in the exploitation of farm animals for many reasons, but one reason is the fact that over 40% of the fish taken from the sea is fed to domestic farm animals to the point where humans, cats, pigs, chickens and farm-raised salmon are literally eating the oceans alive.

Elin Brimheim Heinesen: Ethnocentric cultural imperialism does NOT save whales This is what the people in the SSCS don’t seem to understand: That if they invade the islands the way they’ve done this summer and put pressure on the Faroese people by confronting, judging and moralising the Faroese, sensationalizing their way of life in international media, claiming that the Faroese people kill pilot whales, not for food, but only “for fun and entertainment” (which is one of the most outrageous claims infuriating the Faroese), imposing their own self-righteous rules onto the Faroese by telling them that their way of life is “wrong”, and that they need to change – not ever listening to Faroese arguments - it will only have a counterproductive effect.

Captain Paul Watson: Sea Shepherd is an international movement of volunteers; there is nothing ethnocentric about us. We even have Faroese supporters. No one invaded the islands; every volunteer entered legally through the proper ports of entry.

We have seen the evidence and heard the boasting of the whalers who do say they enjoy the kill. We have read their accounts and seen their actions on video and in reality. Our claim stands that many of the killers enjoy the kill, and thus, it is for fun. The killing of these whales and dolphins is absolutely and most definitely wrong and we make no apologies for saying so. There is no argument that justifies cruelty and death that we could possibly accept.

Elin Brimheim Heinesen: The outcome is that the Faroese shut their ears too and will just be even more convinced that they need to hold on – even more strongly – to their old way of life and that they need to fight against what they see as ‘ethnocentric cultural imperialism’ from foreign alienated city-dwellers, who just don’t understand the basics of Faroese culture, on which they base their life and survival.

Captain Paul Watson: Some do, and some don’t. We have spoken to many Faroese who do oppose the killing. I remember when many in Catalonia said that the bullfight would never be abolished, that it was part of Catalonian culture. They said it was an ancient tradition, and no one from the outside would ever change that, and no one from the inside would ever accept it. Yet, this particular barbaric tradition has been ended.

And once again this “alienated city dweller” propaganda is simply a case of “if you repeat it enough, you may begin to believe it.” We also hold no allegiance to any ethnicity or culture. Our entire motivation is guided by ethics and ecology, and we are opposing ecological imperialism by Faroese whalers who impose their chauvinistic cultural values lethally against the very real culture of whales and dolphins.

Elin Brimheim Heinesen: The fact is that the SSCS – by doing what they do for the time being – actually only harm their own cause! They are even postponing possible improvements of the pilot whaling practice, because as it is, the Faroese definitely won’t give anyone the impression that they are giving in to SSCS’ pressure.

Captain Paul Watson: That is an opinion that we reject. After four decades of activism, we are well aware of our accomplishments and very experienced in our strategies. The whalers will not give in to us and we don’t expect them to, but they will give in, for international public opinion has been evolving very rapidly to oppose both cruelty and slaughter. The times have changed so much that even SeaWorld is now collapsing under international pressure instigated by activism. This atrocity will be ended, and of that I am certain because I have faith in the ability of people to evolve, and especially the young people of the Faroe Islands whose understanding of interdependence, diversity and finite resources, is on par with this same realization by young people everywhere on the planet. Survival means sacrificing archaic traditions in favor of developing a system that is harmonious with the rest of creation. We are becoming aware that we need other species to ensure our own survival and that these species, left alive, provide strength to the integrity of the ecosystems that support us all.

Elin Brimheim Heinesen: SSCS may succeed in postponing some whale kills for a little while. But rather sooner than later the Faroese will go back to their old ways, even more determined and eager to keep on doing what they’ve always done. Before you know it, the Faroese have caught up and reached the average number of annual whale kills again – just as it happened the last time SSCS were in the Faroes. The year after, the Faroese killed almost 1,500 cetaceans, and thus almost doubled their yearly average, so people could fill up their freezers again with this beloved tasty food, many consider to be the Faroese national dish.

Captain Paul Watson: Sea Shepherd’s overall strategy is not limited to postponing a whale kill. In fact, if a whale kill happens, the opportunity to bring awareness to this atrocity will be fully taken advantage of.

Elin Brimheim Heinesen: Claiming that Paul Watson and SSCS save pilot whales in the Faroe Islands, is just not a fact, I’m afraid. It’s quite the opposite!

Captain Paul Watson: We shall see. I firmly believe otherwise.

Elin Brimheim Heinesen: Others have been much more successful than SSCS If people want to have an impact on the Faroese pilot whaling practice, there are in fact other more effective ways. Ady Gil and Pete Bethune from the Earthrace Conservation Society, which has a whale-saving agenda, similar to the SSCS’ agenda, just using different methods, were actually much more successful than the SSCS has ever been, when they visited the Faroe Islands a couple of years ago, because they were clearly not as confrontational and conflict-seeking as SSCS – or especially Paul Watson – himself.

Captain Paul Watson: Of course you would endorse them. They agreed with you for the most part, and did very little otherwise. Their agenda is in no way similar to Sea Shepherd, in fact they don’t appear to have much of an agenda at all besides visiting, having some drinks and badmouthing Sea Shepherd - which of course, brought them into immediate favor with those who support whaling. Sea Shepherd did not come to the Faroes to kiss anyone’s behind or to say what the whalers want to hear. Yes, Sea Shepherd is confrontational, but there are thousands of whales swimming freely in the Southern Ocean right now that would otherwise be dead from Japanese harpoons if Sea Shepherd were not confrontational.

Elin Brimheim Heinesen: Ady Gil and Pete Bethune didn’t invade the country with a hoard of very visible, uniformed people and vehicles, threatening to break Faroese laws and painting grim pictures of the Faroese people in international media. Instead the two came to the Faroes, behaving as respectful guests with a positive attitude, visiting different people in the Faroes, including whalers, talking to them about their lives, making research about Faroese culture, and inviting the Faroese to have a mutual respectful dialogue about the whaling issue. These two people showed genuine interest in the Faroese, their culture and their arguments and respect the Faroese right to decide for themselves how they want to live and behave.

Captain Paul Watson: As for genuine interest in the Faroes, I will be quite truthful about what our genuine interest is and that is to abolish the killing of whales and dolphins worldwide by anyone, for any reason, anywhere. I’m glad you enjoyed their company but to say they contributed to ending the Grind is laughable.

Elin Brimheim Heinesen: By behaving in a respectful way, using only information and dialogue as means and trying to establish a whale-watching business in the Faroes, they actually succeeded in convincing some Faroese people to join their cause and start a branch of the Earthrace Conservation Society in the Faroes. A movement that grew – until the SSCS arrived!

Captain Paul Watson: Did they establish a whale watching business? No, they did not. And what did this Earthrace group in the Faroes do? Did it oppose the Grind? No, it did not. Sea Shepherd is an international movement. Earthrace is not.

Elin Brimheim Heinesen: Even Faroese who strongly support the pilot whale slaughter, actually respect people like Ady Gil, Pete Bethune AND the locals who have joined them, acknowledging their compassion for the whales, even though they don’t agree with their views that the Faroese pilot whaling should be stopped.

Captain Paul Watson: Sea Shepherd is not in the Faroes to gain the respect of whalers, and we would be damn disappointed if we did. Compassion without action is just impotent posing and nothing more.

Elin Brimheim Heinesen: Even Faroese against pilot whaling turn their backs to SSCS and their methods In contrast to this, the average Faroese people see no reason to why they should respect the SSCS as an organisation – or Paul Watson in particular. And why is that? Well, it’s simply because Paul Watson and other SSCS people haven’t shown any respect for the Faroese. They have gravely damaged the relationship by aggressive rhetoric in which they again and again dehumanise and demonise the Faroese people.

Captain Paul Watson: Like I said, we did not come to the Faroes for respect or to win any popularity contests. Truthfully, we do respect the Faroese just as we respect Norwegians and Japanese. It is just their whale killers we have a problem with, and yes, we do not respect their ilk one little bit. We have not insulted, demonized or dehumanized Faorese people unless they happen to have the blood of the whales on their hands. We have also been dehumanized, demonized and insulted but quite frankly that goes with the turf and bothers us not one bit. Our clients are the whales, and it is them we represent, it is them we fight for, and it is them whose welfare we are concerned with.

Elin Brimheim Heinesen: They have told so many lies and have spread so much disinformation in worldwide media, calling for a boycott of the Faroe Islands, ditching the Faroese population as a whole, censoring and not allowing the Faroese people to defend them selves, for instance, on their pages in social media - and thus proven over and over again that they in fact have no regard for the Faroese people, even though they claim, that they do have respect and that they only do what they do out of compassion and in defence of the whales.

Captain Paul Watson: I have yet to hear any evidence of any lie we have told. All we hear are differences of opinions, and those opinions are rendered into lies simply by the fact that what we say they disagree with. We have not called for a boycott of the Faroes. Other groups have. We delete people who make insults and unsubstantiated accusations, and the pro-whaling social sites also remove those they don’t like. I also have little interest in debating killers who are trying to justify their cruelty. And we stand by our position that we are in the Faroes for one reason and one reason only, and that is to defend the whales and work towards the abolishment of this obscenity called the Grind.

Elin Brimheim Heinesen: But in any case, the fact is that this disrespectful behaviour, especially presented by Captain Paul Watson himself, only creates deeper conflicts between the Faroese and the SSCS and makes it almost impossible for the Faroese to believe that the SSCS has come to the Faroes with good intentions.

Captain Paul Watson: Focusing the attention to me is only an attempt to avoid the fact that hundreds of volunteers from more than 30 nations are in the Faroes this summer. I am not even leading the campaign. The land crew is led by Rosie Kunneke of South Africa, and the offshore crew is led by Lamya Essemlali of France. I don’t give instructions or orders. I am simply writing this summer.

Elin Brimheim Heinesen: This is why any discussion between SSCS and the Faroese always seem to end up being unfruitful and pointless, only digging the trenches deeper, making the Faroese even more convinced to keep on practicing the pilot whaling.

Captain Paul Watson: Most likely it is pointless and unfruitful, but any conversation between people intent on saving lives and people intent upon destroying life usually is. And as I said before, our focus is on a much larger picture.

Elin Brimheim Heinesen: The demonising, insulting and hostile rhetoric the SSCS leader has put forward so far, only postpones any possible solutions or agreements, and has resulted in the fact that even Faroese people that earlier maybe leaned towards being against pilot whaling, now turn their backs on SSCS and join the pro-whalers.

Captain Paul Watson: Again this is simply an opinion. I have not demonized anyone. I have simply pointed out you have to be psychotic to butcher defenseless whales in this manner. That is a valid opinion backed up by a great many people. However, we are getting more support from Faroese people now than in any campaigns in the past.

Elin Brimheim Heinesen: Fail, SSCS!

Captain Paul Watson: We shall see Elin, we shall see. If history is our guide, I am confident that life will triumph over death, and kindness will triumph over cruelty. I am just happy to be siding with life and compassion in opposition to suffering and death.

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Aug 19, 2014

The Faroe Islands Support Commercial Whaling

Commentary by Erwin Vermeulen, Chief Engineer, M/Y Brigitte Bardot

Pilot whale meat for sale in a supermarketPilot whale meat for sale in a supermarket
Photo: Sea Shepherd / Erwin Vermeulen
Every year the discussion flares up if there is a commercial aspect to the Faroese pilot whale slaughter.

A transaction is usually defined as commercial when money changes hands with the intent of profit at the receiver’s end. It is legal for the Faroes to sell their share in a grind and some of the slain whales are auctioned off to pay for community costs after a kill, like the cranes that lift dead whales out of the water, cleaning up the docks, transporting waste to the dumpsites, etc. This is how the meat ends up in restaurants and supermarkets.

If a restaurant like Marco Polo then puts a ‘Grindabuffur’ on the menu for 320 Kr that is clearly a commercial endeavor.

Until 2009, during limited, random checks at just a few air and sea border entry points from the Faroes into Denmark, Danish Customs seized several kilos of illegally (meaning without CITES documentation) imported pilot whale meat every year.

In the spring of 2009 the Danish CITES Authority instructed the Danish Customs that CITES permits were no longer required due to changed EU legislation. The new rules on imports are based on EU Commission Regulation (EF) no. 206/2009 of 5th March 2009 on imports to the Community of shipments of animal products to be used for private consumption and amendment to regulation (EF) no. 13/2004. According to these new EU rules, whale products for private consumption can be imported from the Faroe Islands to Denmark without restrictions. This new policy took away any insight into how much pilot whale meat crosses from the Faroes into Denmark.

Minke whale meat can be imported to the Faroe Islands because they have not implemented CITES regulationsMinke whale meat can be imported to the Faroe Islands because they have not implemented CITES regulations
Photo: Sea Shepherd /
Erwin Vermeulen
Under this special exemption clause, import of pilot whale meat and blubber into Denmark for non-commercial purposes is allowed. Whale tissue can be imported for scientific research, private individuals can import for their own consumption and the Faroese Society in Denmark imports meat and blubber, which is used during celebrations for the members of the society.

The declared imports before 2009 vary between 100 and 200 kg per year. Even though the exemption clearly states non-commercial purposes, tourists can order “grind” or “blackfish” in the Faroer Home House in Copenhagen. This is not a soup kitchen; you have to pay for what you order and it is therefore a commercial sale of pilot whale meat.

Denmark became a Party to CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) in October 1977. When ratifying, Denmark informed CITES that it would become applicable to the Faroe Islands only when relevant legislation had come into place there. As the years went by it became clear that the Faroe Islands have no intention at all of implementing or enforcing CITES. The Faroese authorities have said that they do not see that CITES can contribute anything positive for the Faroe Islands. This for instance, makes it possible for the Faroese to import minke whale meat from Norway.

The Faroe Islands have a history of commercial whaling for great whales. The Faroese whalers learned the trade onboard whaling ships of other nations, primarily Norway. From 1894 whaling was conducted from Faroese soil itself. In 1949, for instance, 50 sperm whales were caught in Nolsoyarfjord. The largest Faroese catch was in 1909 when 773 great whales were taken. The whaling station in vid Áir, featured, in “Whale Wars: Viking Shores,” functioned far into the 20th century.

The whaling station in vid Áir, featured, in “Whale Wars: Viking Shores,” functioned far into the 20th century.The whaling station in vid Áir, featured, in “Whale Wars: Viking Shores,” functioned far into the 20th century.
Photo: Sea Shepherd / Erwin Vermeulen

The Faroese whalers continued the commercial take of fin whales even after the IWC in 1976 decided on a zero quota, when the North Atlantic fin whale population was estimated to be only 10% of its original size.

Faroese whalers caught one fin whale in 1977, seven in 1978 and eleven in 1979. When the IWC urged the Faroe Islands/Denmark to stop, a proposal for scientific research was submitted to the IWC in 1981, which the IWC Scientific Committee rejected. Nevertheless, the Faroe Islands continued whaling and took an additional thirteen fin whales in the period from 1981 to 1984.

They stopped whaling, but apparently could not get over the taste. In 2002 there is a first mention of whale meat export to the Faroes: The fisheries website, Intrafish, reports that despite heavy criticism over its plans to export whale meat to Iceland, Norway is now considering starting up a similar trade with the Faroe Islands.

According to statistical information from Norway, in 2003 a total of 8,345 kg of whale meat was exported to Faroe Islands with a value of around $66,500 USD or around $8 USD per kilo.

Before the exports from Norway began, the Norwegian and Danish authorities corresponded to agree that such trade would not be in breach of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna).

The minke whale has been listed on CITES Appendix I since 1986 when it was included in the IWC moratorium and all commercial hunting was halted. Norway continued the hunt in spite of the moratorium and took a reservation against the Appendix I listing under CITES. Therefore Norway is able to export whale meat to the Faroe Islands after issuing a CITES permit, according to the rules applying to CITES Appendix II. Trade in Appendix II specimens requires an export, but not an import permit, meaning that only the exporting state has to determine that the specimen was legally acquired.

Minke whale meat packaged up for sale in a local supermarketMinke whale meat packaged up for sale in a local supermarket
Photo: Sea Shepherd / Erwin Vermeulen
Denmark has no such reservation, and therefore the import of Appendix I meat should not be allowed, but since the Faroe Islands still have no CITES legislation in place (more than 35 years after Denmark ratified CITES), the government of the Faroe Islands just accepted the Norwegian CITES export permit for the transaction.

CITES Secretary-General Willem Wijnstekers ruled the deal illegal because of Denmark's membership. The CITES Secretariat has advised that the Faroe Islands are part of the Danish ratification and therefore CITES Appendix I rules apply.

Since then, Denmark has told CITES that the Faroes are exempt, and the Faroese government said in a statement, "In conjunction with Denmark's ratification of the Cites convention in 1977, a unilateral declaration was submitted noting that the convention would be applicable in the Faroe Islands when the Faroese authorities had established the necessary legislation. As such legislation has not been established in the Faroe Islands, the declaration made by Denmark in 1977 still applies; Cites provisions... are not applicable to the Faroe Islands."

Both Denmark and the Faroes hold the position that the Faroe Islands are not part of the EU and that the EU Regulations on Wildlife Trade, which implements and enforces CITES in the EU, do not apply to the Faroe Islands.

So while Denmark finds excuses to exempt part of its kingdom from conservation measures, the Faroes are free to sponsor commercial whaling.

When the IWC ban on commercial whaling went into effect in 1986, Norway originally agreed to halt trade in whale products - despite the fact that it issued a reservation to the Appendix I listing of whales at CITES. However, when the Norwegian Seafood Export Council reported that the inability of Norwegian whaling companies to export whale products to Japan cost the companies millions of kroner, the Norwegian government in 2001 decided to resume exports of meat and blubber to Japan. At that time it was reported in the press that as much as 600 tonnes of whale blubber were being stored in freezers in Northern Norway. Transactions, however, stalled after tests confirmed elevated levels of toxins such as dioxin and PCBs in the meat. Still it was generally agreed that exports represent the only viable means of making large profits from meat and blubber for the Norwegian whaling industry.

Mercury and toxins did not represent the only health concerns. In 2008 the Lofothval whaling company of Norway requested a CITES permit to ship 720 kg of Minke whale meat to the Faroes. The shipment was suspended when it was discovered that the whale meat had been stored in questionable conditions at a Norwegian pet food factory in Trøgstad. The entire amount of whale meat was confiscated by health officials and declared unsafe for human consumption. Despite this confiscation, exports to the Faroes soon resumed, and there have been at least 15 shipments of whale meat from Norway to the Faroes since 2003, totaling 11,516 kg.

Most of the whale meat shipments go to Faroese supermarkets partially owned by Icelandic interests.

In August of 2003, Iceland made the decision to resume whaling for Minke whales under a self-allocated scientific permit.

In a September 2006 BBC News article entitled “Iceland to begin whale meat trade,” Iceland's whaling commissioner Stefan Asmundsson told the BBC that up to two tonnes of minke whale meat would be exported to the Faroe Islands.

That same month it was reported by Icelandic media that 500 kg of minke whale meat was being exported to the Faroe Islands, with an expected price of 600 Icelandic kronur ($8.57 USD) per kilo. Gunnar Bergmann Jonsson of the whaling company that shipped the minke whale meat to the Faroes said that he hoped "that this will give impetus to the push to resume commercial whaling."

Just as in Norway, the survival of the whaling industry in Iceland depends heavily on exports.

From the above it must be clear that even if you consider the commercial aspect of the grind to be insignificant, that the Faroese government firmly supports commercial whaling and is, together with Japan, the nation that through whale meat imports keeps the dying Norwegian and Icelandic commercial whaling programs from exhaling their last putrid breath.

The Last Whaling Station

Briefing on Whaling Links and Cooperation Between Norway and Iceland, including Whale Meat Exports (April 2013)

Report on whaling in the Faroe Islands by Birgith Sloth

Iceland to begin whalemeat trade

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