Cruise ship passengers horrified as Faroe Islands pilot whales slaughtered in front of them


Cruise ship passengers in the Faroe Islands were subjected to the horrifying sight of a pilot whale hunt (the so-called grind) being carried out in front of them as their ship sat in the port of Torshavn on Sunday July 9. UK whale and dolphin charity ORCA, who had Ocean Conservationists on board the ship, said the Faroes were “flaunting the hunt” in front of tourists, many of whom had specifically come to enjoy seeing whales and dolphins in their natural environment.

The arrival of Ambassador’s Ambition cruise ship in Torshavn in the Faroe Islands coincided with the culmination of the sixth hunt of 2023, resulting in the slaughter of 78 pilot whales in the port area, including 9 tiny calves estimated as being no more than a month old.

Passengers watched on in horror as a flotilla of 40+ small boats and jet-skis drove and herded the pilot whales into shallow waters. A group of 150 people then hauled the animals ashore with hooks and others armed with killing lances slaughtered the animals in the space of 20 minutes. ORCA observed that some of the pilot whales, including a calf, took over 30 seconds to die.

Sally Hamilton CEO of ORCA said; “It defies belief that the Faroese authorities allowed this activity to take place in clear sight of a cruise ship packed with passengers sitting in dock. On one hand, they promote their pristine environment and spectacular wildlife while simultaneously wielding gaff hooks and lances to kill whales and dolphins. It’s almost as if they are flaunting the hunt and taunting the tourists.”

“We shall never stop seeking the change that is necessary here, and the strong partnerships with forward-thinking companies like Ambassador Cruise Line will enable us to continue evidencing whale and dolphin populations in this little-studied region. At some point, the Faroese authorities will have to decide if its marine life is a more attractive tourist proposition when it is alive than when it is being killed.”

Ambassador said; “We 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. We are utterly opposed to the commercial hunting of whales and dolphins in the Faroes, or anywhere else come to that. While traditional hunts of this type have taken place for many years in the Faroe Islands to sustain local communities, we strongly object to this outdated practice, which we believe is now becoming commercial, with meats sold in local supermarkets, for example.

“Sustainability is one of Ambassador Cruise Line’s core values, and we fully appreciate that witnessing this local event would have been distressing for the majority of guests onboard.”

Christian Verhounig, Ambassador CEO, said: “We are dedicated to supporting ORCA in their endeavours to collect data and to monitor whales and dolphins and 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.”