Faroese government announces evaluation of the dolphin drive of 12 September 2021

The dolphin drive that took place on 12 September 2021 and which sparked international outcry is to be evaluated, as the Faroese government announced on 16 September. In the statement, the government makes clear that in light of the sheer size of the pod – two times larger than the second largest pod recorded – the drive led to several difficulties once they had reached the bay. This made the recent drive extraordinary. Especially in this context the government aims to investigate issues related to the number of animals taken and the killing methods applied.

After all, based on available catch data, over the last 20 years, the annual catch of Atlantic white-sided dolphins was at around 211 animals per year (though fluctuating between 0-733), which was obviously far less than the drive of 12 September with more than 1,400 dolphins killed.

Interestingly, while the governmental statement aims to justify the pilot whale drive as an integral part of Faroese culture, as legitimate, sustainable and internationally recognised through the North Atlantic Marine Mammal Commission (NAMMCO), it also stresses that the same does not apply to dolphin drives. The statement says:

Atlantic white-sided dolphin hunts have not been a part of Faroese tradition to the same degree and do not have the same cultural legitimacy.

What this means in practice remains to be seen. In regard to the sustainable utilisation of marine resources, which the Faroes have committed to, especially in light of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and of these SDG14, the drive of 1,400 dolphins, irrespective of age or sex, remains questionable. A cultural and ecological evaluation appears therefore necessary. Yet, an evaluation is not enough, but must be followed by clear rules in case such a large pod is encountered again.

For a map of the Faroe Islands and its authorised whaling villages and bays, please click here.

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