All's Not Whale

A North Atlantic hunt isn’t only gruesome, it’s poisoning the residents of the Faroe Islands.

April 01, 2015

For more than a millennia, the people of the Faroe Islands have been hunting pilot whales. Every summer, they kill about 800, which they say is a sustainable number that helps the nation of 50,000 people stay self-sufficient. Many environmentalists don't agree, and last year the marine conservation group Sea Shepherd fought to stop the hunt by trying to steer whales away from shore. As this documentary The Grind shows, Sea Shepherd even brought in Baywatch babe Pamela Anderson to shine a spotlight on the islanders' bloody hunting grounds. (You can watch the trailer above, but be warned, it's graphic.)

No matter how you feel about the subsistence hunting of whales, the practice has another big concern—mercury-laden whale meat. Pál Weihe of the Faroese Department of Occupational Medicine conducted a 27-year study of the country’s population and found the meat has high levels of the mercury, thanks to industrial pollution finding its way to the sea. Even in low doses, this neurotoxin can lead to problems with memory, reaction time, and speech, especially in young children. Despite these health concerns, every summer the waves around the Faroes run red.

onEarth provides reporting and analysis about environmental science, policy, and culture. All opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of NRDC. Learn more or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.


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