Rare blue whale hybrid possibly hunted by Icelandic whaling company

Pauline Gross
July 14, 2018

The pygmy blue whale and the Antarctic blue whale can both get to around 30 metres in length, she said.

According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), no blue whale has been deliberately caught since 1978.

"While I can't entirely rule out the possibility that this is a hybrid, I don't see any characteristics that would suggest that", Phillip Clapham, from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Alaska Fisheries Science Centre, said in a Sea Shepherd statement.

Photos of the whale provided by Icelandic-based anti-whaling group Hard to Port show the large animal being towed into a port and crew members standing alongside it. The whaling company accused of killing the blue whale, Kvalur hf, has denied any wrongdoing.

Blue whales are an endangered species but hybrids are not a protected species.

Although the first 21 whales killed were endangered Fin whales - which the Icelandic government has permitted Loftsson's company to slaughter despite an global moratorium on whaling and the endangered status of the Fin whale - they do not have any legal authority to kill endangered Blue whales, even within Iceland.

So far this season Hvalur hf has killed 21 fin whales, according to Sea Shepherd, which has been monitoring the catch.

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Worldwide anti-whaling activist group Sea Shepherd claims the huge animal was killed by the Hvalur hf whaling company, which is licensed by Iceland's government to slaughter smaller fin whales.

Dr Peter Richardson, head of Ocean Recovery at the Marine Conservation Society, said he believed the animal is a blue whale after analysing the photos.

Iceland, along with every other country, agreed to honour the International Whaling Commission's decision in the 1960s.

"Whale 22 (documented by us on July 7th midnight / July 8th early morning) shows features of a blue whale (darker belly, all black baleen, bluish colour)", they wrote in a Facebook post. "We heard about this odd whale straight away and an employee reports that it's in many ways similar to a hybrid which has been brought to us quite a lot recently which is unusual".

Campaigners have asked that a DNA test be done to verify from what species the whale is. Then Loftsson ordered his crew to butcher the whale just like it was another Fin whale - the meat, skin, blubber and bone all now mixed in with the Fin whales previously caught, which will make it hard or impossible to locate during potential inspections by the authorities.

Although an global moratorium has placed catch limits at zero for blue whales, Iceland, Norway and the Russian Federation all objected to that provision.

"It is unforgiveable. We hope that the Icelandic public give their whaling group a hard time about this".

Other reports by GizPress

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