German tour operators halt cruises to Faroe Islands in response to continued whale slaughter

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Bloody whale killing on the beaches of the Faroe Islands, Photo via Sea Shepherd.

Activists say unnecessary whale killing must stop

Staff Report

FRISCO — Two big German tour operators have announced that they are cancelling cruise ship visits to the Faroe Islands in reaction to the country’s annual slaughter of hapless whales.

Wildlife advocacy groups have been stepping up the pressure on the Faroe Islands to try and stop the annual event, called the  grindadráp. Islanders defend the practice as an important cultural tradition, but activists say the killing must stop. This year, more than 250 pilot whales where killed late July in a bloodbath on beaches near  Bøur and Tórshavn.

Sea Shepherd received confirmation of the cancellations from AIDA and Hapag-Lloyd last week after several of its crewmembers were convicted in court of trying to disrupt the killing by driving whales away from the beaches. According to Sea Shepherd, AIDA execs sent a letter stating that cruises will be rerouted to stop in the Harbor of Kirkvall on the Scottish Orkney islands as an alternative to the Faroe Islands port of Klaksvík.

In the letter addressed to Sea Shepherd, the company wrote, “In the interest of our crew and our guests as well as for reasons for species protection AIDA Cruises has decided to stop making port calls to the Faroe Islands until further notice.”

Negar Etminan, Head of Corporate Communications for Hapag-Lloyd, stated in an email to Sea Shepherd, “We have already reduced the amount of port calls to the Faroe Islands. There is only one call of port scheduled for the Faroe Islands next year. We will refrain from further calls of port to the Faroe Islands for now and are currently checking possible alternatives for the scheduled itinerary next year.”

In 2013, AIDA addressed a public letter to the Prime Minister of the Faroe Islands, Kaj Leo Johannesen, highlighting the company’s concerns with the grindadráp. In 2014, Hapag-Lloyd addressed a similar letter to Johannesen, stating, “We protect what fascinates us – that is why our company and our guests have a strong wish to stop the whaling in the Faroe Islands and to create a dialogue with you.”

On July 15 this year, Sea Shepherd contacted AIDA and Hapag-Lloyd regarding their objection letters, calling on both companies to immediately postpone cruises to the Faroe Islands in the face of the on-going slaughters.

Sea Shepherd also highlighted the change in the Faroe Islands Pilot Whaling Act and the potential implications these changes would have on AIDA and Hapag-Lloyd customers travelling to the archipelago. Specifically, Sea Shepherd notified both companies that, “any person who does not immediately report a sighting of whales to the district administrator (the sysselmand) is in breach of the law.”

Media reports indicate that the international outcry against the grindadráp, which has intensified as a result of the July 23 slaughters and the arrest of the Sea Shepherd volunteers, has already resulted in a loss of at least 6,000 tourists to the archipelago.

CEO of Sea Shepherd Global, Captain Alex Cornelissen, said, “While our crewmembers have been found guilty of defending pilot whales, the fight against the continued slaughter of cetaceans in the Faroe Islands is rapidly gaining momentum. I congratulate AIDA and Hapag-Lloyd for standing-up against this cruel and unnecessary slaughter, and for sending a clear message to Denmark and the Faroe Islands that the world will no longer tolerate this bloody ‘tradition’.”

Sea Shepherd has been leading opposition to the grindadráp since the early 1980s, and is currently in the Faroe Islands for the organization’s sixth Pilot Whale Defense Campaign, Operation Sleppid Grindini.

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