Whalers accused of killing a rare blue whale off of Iceland

Blue whale

Hard To Port There has been a ban on hunting blue whales since they nearly became extinct

Icelandic whalers appear to have killed an endangered blue whale before chopping it up to be eaten as a delicacy in Japan.

If these fears are confirmed, it would be the first official blue whale to be harpooned in half a century.

Genetic sampling has been conducted to establish the species of the whale, with experts unable to rule out the possibility it could be a rare blue/fin whale hybrid.

"I am absolutely confident that it's a hybrid", said Kristján Loftsson who runs Hvalur hf, to Matt McGrath at the BBC. "When you approach a blue whale, it's so distinct that you leave it alone". Humane Society International's Senior Marine Scientist, Mark Simmonds OBE, believes the whale to be a juvenile blue whale or, conceivably, a rare fin whale-blue whale hybrid.

However, Iceland doesn't follow the worldwide moratorium on killing all whales, and will give permits for hunting fin whales, which they do not believe are threatened.

"It is like a fin whale, it behaves like a fin whale, but after you shoot it you notice [the characteristics] are different to a fin whale".

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A moratorium on commercial whaling was passed in 1982 by the International Whaling Commission, taking effect from 1985 onwards. "Photographs point to the fact that it's a hybrid whale and we're nearly certain that it is one, but we can't be sure until autumn when we get it DNA tested".

It has all the characteristics of a blue whale; given that - notably the coloration pattern, ' Dr Phillip Clapham from NOAA Alaska Fisheries Science Centre said.

Sea Shepherd UK's Chief Operating officer Robert Read demanded that DNA samples should be taken from from all the whale meat and parts in storage at Loftsson's whaling station and warehouses.

Both blue and fin whales are protected under the global CITES agreement, with the resolution adopted in 1963 by The World Conservation Union and officially enforced from 1975.

"This awful incident comes as Japan is rumoured to be planning an attempt to overturn the global moratorium on commercial whaling, and clearly speaks to how utterly inappropriate it is for countries to even contemplate allowing a large-scale return to this grossly inhumane and haphazard industry". He said: "I have viewed plenty of Blue whales on the surface, dived with them beneath the surface in West Australia, off the coast of California, in the Southern Ocean and in the waters off Newfoundland".

Like fin whales, they are listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as "endangered", with an estimated global population of between 10,000 and 25,000. Picture: Facebook/Hard to PortThe whale has been positively identified by experts as a blue whale, according to Sea Shepherd.

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