Seventeen scientists in the fields of biology and marine life have issued a joint statement put forward that they consider it “a strong possibility” that Hvalur hf., Iceland’s only fin whaling company, did in fact kill a blue whale. Further, they believe Hvalur hf. has broken Icelandic laws as well as international law, and that the company’s operations should be grounded pending genetic testing.
As reported, Hvalur hf. landed a whale the weekend before last that has garnered international attention. Since then, there has been some dispute over whether the animal was a blue whale or a hybrid of a blue and a fin whale. However, the analysis of 17 scientists who have reviewed the photos of the animal are of one mind.
“We, the undersigned blue whale / cetacean experts believe, based on morphological characteristics, that there is a strong possibility that the whale landed last Saturday 7 July (‘Whale 22’) was a blue whale, contrary to reports by the authorities that it is a blue whale / fin whale hybrid,” the statement reads in part. “Even if tests reveal the whale to be a hybrid, these are rare and therefore of great value to research and science. Blue whale x fin whale hybrids are extremely important for scientific efforts to better understand different evolutionary and even ecological processes. It is regrettable that over the last decades, at least four such hybrids have reportedly been killed in Icelandic whaling operations.”
They cite Articles 3 and 10 of the Icelandic Whaling Act, which prohibit the hunting of blue whales and proscribe that companies which due hunt them are grounded pending court ruling, respectively. They further refer to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) regulation that hybrids “are treated with the precautionary approach” in cases where one of the hybrid’s parents are a protected species, which would prohibit Hvalur hf. from exporting this particular whale’s meat to any country.
“We, therefore, call for the whaling vessels to be grounded, pending immediate genetic testing, to prove beyond doubt the species in question,” the statement concludes.
The undersigned of this statement are the following:
PhD Marianne Rasmussen, Director of the The University of Iceland‘s Research Center in Húsavík
Tomonari Akamatsu, PhD, , Japan Fisheries Research and Education Agency
Simon Berrow, Chief Science officer, the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group
Peter Evans, Director, Ses Watch Foundation & School of Ocean Science, University of Bangor
Erich Hoyt Co-chair, IUCN SSC WCPA Marine Mammal Protected Areas Task Force
Miguel Iñiguez, Director, Fundación Cethus
Maria Iverson, Project Researcher, Project Blue Whale, The University of Iceland‘s research center in
Carl C Kinze, Cetacean Atlas of Denmark
Adam A. Pack, PhD, Professor of Biology, University of Hawaii at Hilo; President, The Dolphin
Katja Vinding Pedersen, PhD, Aarhus University
Fabian Ritter, Director of Research, MEER e.v.
Conor Ryan, PhD, Research Associate,
Joseph Schnitzler, PhD, Institute for Terrestrial and Aquatic Wildlife Research (ITAW), University
of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, Foundation
Richard Sears, PhD, President, Mingan Island Cetacean Study
Prof. Prof. h. c. Dr Prof. Ursula Siebert, Institute for Terrestrial and Aquatic Wildlife Research
(ITAW), University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, Foundation
Magnus Wahlberg, PhD, University of Southern Denmark
Caroline Weir, PhD, Cetacean scientist, Ketos Ecology