Several weeks ago, I mentioned that the IWC should be very careful about thinking that they could limit commercial whaling to just three countries, Japan, Norway and Iceland.
Now it seems the Faroe Islands are staking their claim to a quota.
Very roughly translated it says: Jorgen Niclasen, the Faroese Foreign Affairs "minister", had hoped that at least Denmark would have agreed to a zero quota [WDCS comment: we are not sure but we assume by this they mean as a place-holder of zero in any agreed Table 4 at the IWC - thats the table that allocates quotas in the new deal], but in consultation with the Minister Lene Espersen today about the [issue] he said that Denmark is to taking agreement on the EU interests and not Faroese or Greenlandic interests.
The Faroese are claiming that Denmark is going against their interests in supporting the porposed new rules at the IWC, as there are some who are interested in returning to killing large whales; according to the new rules only lands currently whaliing will be allowed to hunt, and others will not be allowed to catch whales.
By clicking below you can read more about the history of commercial whaling in the Faroes
Previous commercial whaling in and around the Faroes Islands
Norwegian whalers were instrumental in developing commercial whaling in the Faroe Islands. Hans Albert Grøn of Sandefjord helped pioneer modern commercial whaling in the Faroes in 1893, being in personal command of expeditions based in Finnmark, the Faroes and Spitsbergen (Tønnessen and Johnsen, 1982)
Grøn had calculated that whales migrating north to Icelandic waters would make ‘landfall’ off the Faroes, and his first catch in 1894 yielded forty-six whales in three months; producing 940 barrels of oil and 5 tons of baleen.
Grøn based his operation at Strømnæs, between the islands of Strømo and Østerø targeting blue whales (though these rapidly declined as stocks were hunted out) and then took a majority of fin, with some humpback, sei and sperm whales.
In April when fin whales appeared on their northward migration whaling took place some 10 to 30 miles off shore, with the majority of whales being male. April would bring Blue whales but these creatures were so quick the whalers found it hard to keep up with them. This was repeated in June when some ‘very thin’ blue whales would pass by. (A thin blue whale may only generate 50 barrels of oil compared to a larger southerly migrating whale, which could generate some 100 barrels of oil).
By 1900 some sixty-six whales were being caught in the Faroese, but it was proving ‘a gamble’ as season to season would vary. Whales populations were being depleted and had to be hunted further and further out to sea from the shore stations, as far north as Iceland and as far south as the Shetlands and even the Hebrides.
Grøn operated for the first four years on his own in the Faroes with competition and catches for this period totaled 212 whales and 5,374 barrels.
Whaling from the Faroes was regulated by the law of the 2nd May 1902, though this was not as rigorous as that applied in Iceland. Its primary object was to safeguard Danish and Faroese interests and whaling was reserved for Danish citizens or companies in which Danes held at least 50% of the share capital. Companies that were already established were allowed to continue operating but would have to fly the Danish flag and pay a levy of Kr.50 on every whale taken.
The Faroese had welcomed commercial whaling as it drove down the cost of whale meat to about a farthing a pound. Many Faroese and Danes participated in the commercial whaling either as crew or as shareholders.
Grøn established a second station in 1901 and set up a Danish-Norwegian company that operated from 1903 onwards from a station near to the Faroese capital of Torshavn. A/S Suderø (named after its location) became a Danish company in 1902 and had two leading Faroese businessmen on the board.
By 1909 there were some six stations open serviced by seventeen boats. This proved unsustainable and after a peak of production of 13,850 barrels in 1909 production slumped and operators started to withdraw, with Grøn the first in 1911.
The Antarctic was acting as a great draw for highly paid gunners and one company had to dismiss all its gunners in 1911 for incompetence.
During his operating period Grøn’s company provided an average dividend of some 28.6% showing that whilst it lasted whaling was highly profitable for the Faroese involved.
In 1914-15 Grøn returned to the Faroes and made a record catch of 179 whales in 1915, making a net profit of 125%. However in 1916 the whales failed to appear and then the war prevented further activity until 1920 when four companies made for the Faroes. However, they were dogged by high running costs and only one company struggled through until 1930.
The total yield from the Faroes between 1894 and 1916 was 6,682 whales and 154,419 barrels of oil with a value of Kr.8 million.
The Faroese themselves have tried reviving their commercial whaling industry on various occasions, both in the 1930s and after the Second World War. One Danish company was operating in 1935/36 .
In 1946 whaling was reestablished in the Faroes from two shore stations, resulting in 101 whales and 3,215 barrels of oil. The Danish oil industry financed the stations modernization and extension and with five whale catchers operating the yield rose to 11,251 barrels by 1950. Denmark was keen to start using a floating factory in the Faroes to help train gunners and crew for Antarctic whaling, and in 1949 the IWC granted permission for Denmark to use a floating factory when it was argued that it would operate as a ‘shore station’ when permanently aground and the propeller removed. There was a ban on floating factories in the Atlantic north of 40°S.
However, even with such provisions fin whaling declined after 1950 (377 whales taken) and sei whales disappeared almost entirely . In the post war period 40 blue whales were caught around the Faroes until they were protected by the IWC from the end of 1959.
The area of the Faroes has brought mixed result for commercial whaling. The high of 377 whales in 1950 was down to twenty in 1952 and recovered to 141 in 1957. 1958 returned a low sixteen and whaling was officially suspended between 1959 and 1961.
There were two significant attempts to resume commercial whaling in 1962-64 and then again in 1968, when the yield was six fin and six sperm whales. Both attempts were financially unsuccessful.
According the Faroese Foreign department of the Prime Minister’s office –
‘…the Faroe Islands have in recent history also had a very small commercial catch of the larger baleen whales, in particular fin whales, but also some minke whales. From these catches, landed at whaling stations in the Faroes until the early 1980’s, Faroe Islanders had a relatively inexpensive supply of baleen whale meat. The blubber of baleen whales was the primary commercial target of the catch for industrial use, and was not used for food in the Faroes, unlike the blubber of pilot whales. The meat, a by-product of the catch, was however held in high esteem for its fine texture, taste and nutritional value.’
The Faroe Islands ceased commercial whaling operations under Faroese legislation in 1984 as a consequence of the IWC moratorium on commercial whaling’ .
In 2003 the Faroese accepted an import of 11 tonnes of minke whale meat from Norway’s catch, which had ‘been purchased from authorized Norwegian suppliers by wholesalers and retailers’
Mr. Herálvur Joensen , Head of the Representation of the Faroes in Copenhagen, speaking in 2008 about the small cetacean hunt in the Faroes stated,
‘Faroese whaling is not “commercial” in the way that commercial whaling is defined in the whaling debate. No money exchanges hands when a whale catch in the Faroes is shared out according to traditional rules in the local communities. But whale catches have always made a valuable contribution to the national economy. They are a locally available source of food that does not have to be imported or transported over long distances. In principle, individuals are free to sell their shares for money. Some choose to do so, although most people prefer to keep them for their own private use.’
Joensen goes onto say,
‘The Faroes do not trade our whale resources on international markets, but we have done in the past. And we wish to maintain our right to do so in the future, if we decide this is an economical option. We certainly respect the right of other nations to trade in their natural resources. In this sense the Faroes are also a commercial whaling nation, in principle if not in practice.’
1. Tønnessen J.N., and Johnsen A.O. (1982) The History of Modern Whaling, translated from the Norwegian by Christophersen, R.I., C. Hurst and Company, London.
2.Ibid., 4, at 91.
3.Ibid., 4, at 325
4. Ibid., 4, at 645
5. Imports to the Faroe islands of minke whale meat from Norway, Prime Ministers Office, June 2003, accessed on 2nd February 2010 and available at http://co2.fo/.../Faroese%20whale%20meat%20imports%20from%20Norway.doc
Joensen, H (2008) Head of the Representation of the Faroes in Copenhagen, Seminar on Commercial Whaling, Landstingsalen, Monday 10 March 2008 accessed on 2nd February 2010, available at http://www.mfa.fo/Default.aspx?ID=474&M=News&PID=1031&NewsID=1264