Icelandic whalers hunting fin whales appear to have accidentally killed either a protected blue whale or a rare blue-fin whale hybrid, British wildlife charity Whale and Dolphin Conversation Society (WDC) reports. The whaling company behind the rare catch is Kristján Loftsson’s Hvalur hf, which took up whaling again this year after a two year break.
Hard to Port, a non-profit organisation that fights whaling in Iceland, first shared a Facebook post with pictures of the whale in question, after German conservationist and CEO of Hard to Port Arne Feuerhahn noticed its different appearance.
“Based on the physical appearance and colouration of the lower jaw and baleen plates, it cannot be a fin whale. The mottled-grey colouration of the body points toward a blue whale, so the whale in question is either a blue whale or a blue/fin hybrid, genetics can confirm this,” Dr. Marianne Rasmussen of the University of Húsavík told WDC.
Blue whales have been protected by international law from hunting since 1966 and it is assumed that up to 90% of the blue whale population has been killed through commercial whaling. Furthermore, blue-fin hybrids are very rare, with only five creatures ever spotted in Iceland – of which four have been killed by whalers. Vanessa Williams-Grey, policy analyst at WDC calls the incident “nothing short of an environmental crime”.