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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Stranded whales died naturally or killed for their meat?

On the eve of Saturday, 7 September 2013, during a strong storm, about 70 long-finned pilot whales (Globicehala melas) began stranding in the small harbour of Rif and along the northern coast of the Snæfellsness peninsula in the west of Iceland.

About 20 of these whales unfortunately died naturally or were killed by the local community. Some of the throats were obviously slit, however there is some debate whether this was to stop their suffering or so that they could start butchering the animals for their meat or maybe both.

It is Icelandic law that beached whales need to be reported to the police and they alert the relevant authorities.  This did not happen and thus an investigation has begun. Most likely, the locals simply did not know they had to do this. Still, they wasted no time in cutting their share of the meat.

There was a time for most countries that a beached whale was considered a gift from god when food was scarce. Nowadays, most attitudes about consuming whale meat have changed and even become a taboo, yet Iceland still practices traditional ways no matter who and how many protest it.

On the Sunday a few friends and I decided to drive up there from Reykjavík to check out the situation. For me, it was a very sad sight for many reasons. Sad that the whales had a very stressful and traumatic end to their life, but mostly because I felt that a lot of the locals seemed to have no respect for the animals that lost their life.  If the animals had died naturally and the locals wanted to eat the meat, if they don't mind feeding their children meat that could have high levels of PCB's and methyl mercury in, then why not but it was this total disrespect that really shocked me.

Children were jumping on the whale’s heads and tails, prodding them with sticks as the parents stood by laughing, one van even ran over a whale, maybe by accident but it looked to be on purpose with a group of onlookers in hysterics and even one very young calf was butchered with blood running down its smiley face.

This is not an Iceland you should be proud off. The earth provides us all with air to breathe, shelter to keep us dry and warm, water to drink and food to eat and we should respect and protect it and this should be also taught to future generations.


  1. Hi Megster!
    Very powerful post about the whales, so sad to hear about the lack of respect and understanding for these amazing animals. I would be interested to see what the locals thought about what was happening? I know you said many seemed to be laughing, playing etc, but did any of them understand why this happened or what this means for them? Sometimes what we see as cruel and insensitive is just a lack of education from local people.

    The Urban Naturalist (Ed P!)
    Ps. Love the RI background pic!

  2. Hi The Urban Naturalist (Ed P) :)

    There is definitely a lack of education within Iceland. We at Elding Whale Watching invite schools to join our tours for free with a short introduction into the conservation, ecology and biology of whales, if they write a project at school about whales. It is very surprising that even the teachers are shocked by the information we tell them. I believe this only goes on in Reykjavik though, there is a whale museum in the north but i don't think there is that much about conservation except about whaling,
    Iceland is a fishing community and whales are considered just another fish by many! This and the whaling debate have caused a lot of media attention lately which has been great for educational purposes and made people think a lot more for themselves. Iceland is still in the dark ages with respect to conservation issues, recycling for example is only really present in Reykjavik. It drives me crazy with the family i'm staying with at the moment and i've tried to convert them but there is just no interest.

  3. Wow, you recognised that the background was of RI, such a beautiful place :) would love to go back :)