Blue whale killing denied by Icelandic company Hvalur hf’s CEO, who says it was a hybrid – Science News


The chief executive officer of Icelandic whaling company Hvalur hf has denied accusations his company slaughtered a blue whale earlier this week, claiming the animal was a hybrid.

Speaking from his home in Iceland, Kristjan Loftsson also said Australia should resume hunting whales in order to prevent strandings and danger to shipping traffic.

Mr Loftsson said there is “no way” his crew would have mistakenly killed a blue whale and that instead it was a hybrid of a blue whale and a fin whale, not protected under International Whaling Commission protocol.

“In the media, that’s what they’re saying, but that’s their opinion by looking at the pictures.

“We were there, I was there and I saw it myself and I’ve seen some of the other hybrids we’ve had in the past.”

Mr Loftsson said his crew spent an hour observing the whale before shooting it, and that they have never mistakenly taken a blue whale.

“They are very distinct from a fin whale, that’s why they’re called a blue whale. They have blue all over their body, you see it, it’s easy,” he said.

He said there will be DNA testing to confirm the identity of the whale, but that he is not concerned by what the results might show.

Anti-whaling group Hard to Port published photos of what many experts have identified as a blue whale being dragged into Hvalur hf processing facility on its Facebook page on Tuesday.

Since then, the significant weight of expert opinion, including CEO of The Blue Whale Study Dr Peter Gill, have agreed that the animal is most likely a blue whale, with a very small chance it may be a hybrid.

“Looking at the photos you can tell without question that it’s not a fin whale,” Dr Gill said.

“It seems to me like they’ve really stuffed up, done something really stupid and all of a sudden the focus of the world is on them.”

Dr Gill said the colouration, shape and size of the dorsal fin and colour of the baleen (mouth filter) were all characteristic of a blue whale.

Only DNA testing can prove that a whale is a hybrid.

Following the capture of the whale, Hard to Port say the animal was butchered and the meat mixed in with that of other butchered fin whales.

Hybrid whales a protection grey area

While blue whales are protected, there is no designated status for hybrid blue-fin whales because they are typically extremely rarely encountered.

Some have accused the company of using that loophole to deflect negative scrutiny of the killing.

But Hard to Port spokesperson Arne Feuerhahn told the BBC the damage had been done.

“These images leave people around the world speechless. Thousands come to Iceland to see these animals in the wild and there is just one company who keep this industry alive in Iceland,” he said.

Iceland authorities said in a statement that they were investigating the matter.

“[This is] being taken seriously by the Government and the relevant authorities are investigating,” the statement said.

Conservation groups including Environmental Investigation Agency have described Mr Loftsson as a “multi-millionaire rogue” whaler, who is perpetuating an unpopular operation in Iceland.

But Mr Loftsson said the negative media was being generated by anti-whaling activists and that whaling should be expanded to places like Australia.

“If you don’t want to have lots of problems with humpbacks stranding all over the beaches in Australia … you should keep the population in balance, study it, eat the meat and be merry,” he said.

“The meat is very good, the skin with a little bit of fat … they tell me humpback is the best for that.

“I’ll come back to Brisbane when you start serving whale meat in your restaurants.”

His companied is licensed to hunt fin whales in Iceland and has so far killed 21 this season, according to Hard to Port and Sea Shepherd.

Mr Loftsson took over as CEO of Hvalur hf from his father.

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