100 Bottlenose dolphins slaughtered in the Faroe Islands

Conservation news


On 29th July 2022, around 100 bottlenose dolphins were driven into the bay at Skalafjorour and slaughtered. This is the same bay where 1,428 Atlantic white-sided dolphins were killed in 2021.

Despite a global outcry and significant opposition within the Faroes, hunters killed 100 bottlenose dolphins in one of the largest hunts for this species. This is an expansion of the so-called “traditional” Grindadráp, which historically targets pilot whales. Dolphins have never been taken in these numbers before, and the majority of local Faroese residents have made it clear it is not part of their tradition and do not support the expansion of the dolphin hunt. Furthermore, there is no demand for dolphin meat in the Faroes.

It is thought that 98 adults, a young calf and an unborn foetus were butchered using knives and other sharp objects to cut their necks. It is also said that some of the animals showed cut marks from propellers where boats ran into them or over them, likely as they were being herded into the bay.

Bottlenose dolphins are one of the most familiar species of dolphin and have a global distribution being seen in both coastal and offshore waters. They are one of two cetacean species that are listed in Annex II of the EU Habitats Directive, meaning EU Member States are required to protect the species and their core habitats - however, the Faroe Islands are not members of the European Union.

Bottlenose dolphins live in closely bonded groups, and this killing of adults, calves and unborn animals could have wiped out an entire social group. They are very intelligent animals and are likely to have been aware of what was going on around them, causing them to be distressed as members of their group were brutally killed.

Sally Hamilton, ORCA Director said:

“This is further evidence that the Faroes have become the slaughterhouse of the seas. Killing these amazing creatures does nothing other than widen the gulf between the Faroes and every right-minded modern nation. While the rest of the world works to find ways of protecting marine life, the Faroes seem to revel in butchering it. They appear to have no shame, conscience or concern about how actions like this disgust the rest of the world.”

The slaughtering of 1,428 Atlantic white-sided dolphins in September 2021 caused a global outcry, and in response, the Faroes Fisheries Ministry established an annual quota for this species, which was announced in July 2022.

However, despite dressing this up as a positive move, this actually represents a huge backwards step in terms of cetacean conservation in the Faroes. The quota of 500 Atlantic white-sided dolphins per year will apply for 2022 and 2023, but worryingly, the language in the statement from the Faroese Government suggests that they believe as many as 825 dolphins would be “sustainable”, raising concerns that this number could increase from 2024 onwards.

ORCA plays an important role within a coalition of leading NGOs committed to the conservation of cetaceans. Through this group, members come together on issues of concern and present clear, consistent messages to Government, opinion leaders and the general public and the grind and the dolphin hunts in the Faroes are a key part of this work. The coalition has issued a joint statement stressing our deep concerns regarding the decision by the Government of the Faroe Islands to continue and further institutionalise the hunting of dolphins.