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Ambassador Cruise line apologises after passengers see dozens of whales being slaughtered

1,000 passengers were left horrified after witnessing 78 pilot whales being slaughtered in the Faroe Islands

Meredith Clark
New York
Friday 21 July 2023 20:54 BST
1,500 dolphins mass slaughtered in largest single cull on Faroe Islands

Ambassador Cruise Lines has issued an apology to passengers after one of its ships docked in the Faroe Islands, where dozens of pilot whales were being slaughtered.

The luxury cruise line shared in a statement on Thursday (13 July) that the arrival of their ship, the Ambition, in Torshavn in the Faroe Islands – which is located between Scotland, Iceland, and Norway – “coincided with the culmination of a hunt” of more than 40 pilot whales, the company said on Twitter.

The British cruise liner acknowledged that “witnessing this local event” was “distressing” for the majority of 1,000 passengers onboard the Ambition, some of those being conservationists with ORCA – a UK-based marine life advocacy group that seeks to protect whales and dolphins.

“We were incredibly disappointed that this hunt occurred at the time that our ship was in port,” they said. “We strongly object to this outdated practice, and have been working with our partner, ORCA, a charity dedicated to studying and protecting whales, dolphins and porpoises in UK and European waters, to encourage change since 2021.”

Christian Verhounig, Ambassador CEO, said: “We are extremely disappointed that this has happened after weeks of trying to open constructive dialogue with the Faroese government and Visit Faroes on these issues. We continue to educate our guests and crew not to buy or eat any whale or dolphin meat and stand against any profiteering from commercial whaling and dolphin hunts.”

Seventy eight long-finned pilot whales, a species of dolphin, were killed near Torshavn on Sunday, Yahoo News Australia reported. The controversial practice, called Grindadráp, saw Faroese locals herding the pilot whales to shore with over 40 small boats and jet-skis. ORCA confirmed that a group of 150 people then hauled the animals ashore with hooks and slaughtered them with lances.

The hunt lasted a total of 20 minutes, while some of the pilot whales, including a calf, took over 30 seconds to die.

Long-finned pilot whales are a type of dolphin that dwell in deep temperate to subpolar oceanic waters, such as the Southern Hemisphere or the North Atlantic. They live in close-knit pods of up to 20 pilot whales. Although they’re not endangered, long-finned pilot whales are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

Whaling in the Faroe Islands – known as “grind” for short – is a longstanding tradition that has taken place for over 800 years, with multiple hunts occurring each year. The arrival of the Ambassador’s Ambition cruise ship in Torshavn coincided with the sixth hunt of 2023, ORCA said.

While the practice has received much criticism from animal rights activists and conservationists, the Faroese government has argued the killings provide food for local communities and are fully regulated by law. “The average catch of around 800 whales a year is not considered to have a significant impact on the abundance of pilot whales, which are estimated at around 778,000,” the government previously said.

Others have called on cruise ship companies to boycott the Faroe Islands in order to end the killing of whales in the area. “Cruise companies need to take a stand in support of ocean wildlife and remove the Faroe Islands from itineraries,” Rob Read, the chief operations officer at Captain Paul Watson Foundation UK, told Yahoo News Australia. “Their continued visits to the Faroe Islands inadvertently supports the abhorrent practice that is the Grindadráp.”

In July 2022, nearly 100 bottlenose dolphins were killed in the Faroe Islands, the largest hunt of bottlenose dolphins in more than 120 years.

Meanwhile in September 2021, a record 1,428 Atlantic white-sided dolphins were slaughtered in a single hunt. In response, the government of the Faroe Islands led a review of dolphin hunts and limited the practice to 500 dolphins for the current year.

Conservationists have long been lobbying the UK government to halt trade with the Faroe Islands as the killings continue. However, ministers ignored their calls in February last year when they signed a £5.5m agreement allowing UK and Faroese vessels to fish in areas of each other’s waters.

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