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The government of the Danish Faroe Islands has agreed to limit the number of dolphins caught during its annual pilot whale massacre. After a campaign that has gathered 1.3 million signatures so far, the Faroese government announced it will only allow to catch 500 white-sided dolphins (Lagenorhynchus acutus) alongside the traditional long-finned pilot whales (Globicephala melas) killed at an average of 700 annually. Last year, 1,500 dolphins were massacred together with the pilot whales, which exceeded the total for the past 14 years combined. The limit is intended to last only two years, while the Scientific Committee of NAMMCO, the North Atlantic Marine Mammal Commission, looks into the sustainable catches of white-sided dolphins.

This limit is very tokenistic because, apart from only affecting the dolphins and not the whales, since 1996 there have been only three other years where more than 500 dolphins were killed (2001, 2002, and 2006), aside from the unusual high 2021 slaughter. Since 1996, an average of 270 white-sided dolphins a year have been killed in the Faroe Islands.

Sally Hamilton, director of the marine conservation charity Orca, said, “This announcement by the Faroese government is farcical… What the Faroes have done is formalise something that was previously unformalised – sanctioning the slaughter when it was never previously clear how many dolphins would be killed annually – if any at all…The Faroes have become an abattoir for marine mammals, and the country seems unconcerned at the international outrage and condemnation this is causing.” Although in most of Europe there is a ban on killing any cetacean (whales and dolphins) through the Bern Convention, this does not apply to the Faroe Islands where the government usually licenses the hunt. According to Faroese legislation, it is also permitted to hunt Atlantic white-sided dolphins, common bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus), white-beaked dolphins (Lagenorhynchus albirostris), and harbor porpoise (Phocaena phocaena).