Many big marine animals now have their own annual international “awareness days”, and eco-activists Sea Shepherd have decided that dolphins deserve their own, although their nominated day is more cause for a wake than a celebration.
World Dolphin Day marks the one-year anniversary of the biggest single slaughter of cetaceans in recorded history, says the organisation, which has coined today, 12 September, both in memory of the 1,428 dolphins killed by Faroe Islanders on that day, and as a reminder that dolphins around the world need more protection.
A year ago Sea Shepherd captured footage of the mass slaughter of Atlantic white-sided dolphins in the Faroe Islands. “While it’s no secret that the Faroese people continue to kill pilot whales and other dolphins in drive hunts known as grindadráps, the international community finally saw with their own eyes how cruel and senseless this outdated practice has become as they watched an entire pod of sentient marine mammals fighting for their lives while being butchered in the shallow waters of the fjord, including the juveniles and pregnant females,” says the organisation.
World Dolphin Day is an opportunity to raise the alarm, says Sea Shepherd, citing reports of dolphins and other small cetaceans being killed around the world every year, whether hunted for “tradition”; held in captivity for entertainment, as recently reported on by Divernet in Malta; or suffocating in fishing-nets as bycatch. Often the public is unaware of what is happening, it says.
Following an international outcry after last year’s massacre, a global coalition called Stop The Grind formed in a bid to apply political, economic and social pressure to the Faroe Islands.
It amassed enough signatures to launch a Parliamentary debate calling for suspension of the UK’s trade agreement with the Faroe Islands, although the outcome was disappointing. It also commissioned a survey of UK, Denmark and Germany consumers revealing that 69% of respondents would support economic sanctions or consumer boycotts against nations that hunt dolphins and whales, as reported on Divernet.
Stop The Grind members will be in Portoroz, Slovenia this October during an International Whaling Commission (IWC) convention, to call for small cetaceans to be included in the international whale-hunting moratorium.
Sea Shepherd UK says that its volunteers have been in the Faroe Islands since May to investigate the grinds and link up with local opposition groups. They have documented the dumping of dolphin and pilot whale remains into the sea, refuting claims that nothing from the grind goes to waste, while one volunteer was recently given a permit to participate in the grind in return for watching a one-hour presentation that he couldn’t understand because he didn’t speak Faroese.
“Through World Dolphin Day, we can raise awareness and encourage more people to speak out against the slaughters,” says Sea Shepherd. “Help us make it clear to the Faroese – as well as governments and international organisations like the IWC – that the world is watching, and that we demand legal protections for small cetaceans around the world.”