A British cruise line has issued an apology to its passengers after one of its ships stopped at a port in the Faroe Islands during a pilot whale hunt. The Faroe Islands, an autonomous territory belonging to the Kingdom of Denmark, is located in the North Atlantic, between Scotland, Iceland, and Norway. Ambassador Cruise Lines confirmed that its ship, Ambition, arrived at the port of Torshavn on July 9 while a hunt of over 40 pilot whales was taking place in the area.
The cruise ship operator expressed its disappointment in a Twitter post, stating, “We were incredibly disappointed that this hunt occurred at the time that our ship was in port.” The company also made it clear that it strongly opposes this outdated practice and has been working with its partner, ORCA, a charity dedicated to the study and protection of marine mammals, to advocate for change since 2021. Sustainability is one of Ambassador Cruise Line’s core values, and they acknowledged that witnessing the local whale hunt would have been distressing for most guests. Therefore, the operator sincerely apologized to the passengers for any unnecessary upset caused by the situation.
ORCA, a conservation and campaign group, revealed that some of their ocean conservationists were on board the ship during the whale hunt. The group stated in a blog that many tourists had specifically come to witness whales and dolphins in their natural environment, making the slaughter even more distressing. On July 9, 78 long-finned pilot whales were killed as part of the Faroese centuries-old mass hunting tradition known as Grindadráp. ORCA highlighted that among the victims were nine newborn calves estimated to be no more than a month old.
According to ORCA, passengers on the cruise ship watched in horror as a flotilla of over 40 small boats and jet-skis herded the pilot whales into shallow waters. Subsequently, a group of about 150 people hauled the animals ashore using hooks and killed them with lances within 20 minutes. Shockingly, it took some of the pilot whales, including a calf, over 30 seconds to die. The group’s blog emphasized the disbelief that the Faroese authorities allowed this gruesome activity to happen right in front of a cruise ship full of passengers.
Sally Hamilton, the CEO of ORCA, expressed her astonishment and disappointment in a statement, saying, “It defies belief that the Faroese authorities allowed this activity to take place in clear sight of a cruise ship packed with passengers sitting in dock. On one hand, they promote their pristine environment and spectacular wildlife while simultaneously wielding gaff hooks and lances to kill whales and dolphins. It’s almost as if they are flaunting the hunt and taunting the tourists.”
Christian Verhounig, the CEO of Ambassador Cruise Lines, also chimed in, stating that they are dedicated to supporting ORCA in collecting data and monitoring marine mammals. Verhounig expressed his extreme disappointment in the situation, especially after weeks of attempting to engage in constructive dialogue with the Faroese government and Visit Faroes on these matters. The company continues to educate its guests and crew not to purchase or consume any whale or dolphin meat and remains firmly against any profiteering from commercial whaling and dolphin hunts.
In conclusion, the incident involving the docking of a British cruise ship at a port in the Faroe Islands during a pilot whale hunt has sparked controversy and disappointment. The cruise line, Ambassador Cruise Lines, offered a sincere apology to its passengers, emphasizing its strong opposition to the hunt and commitment to sustainability. Conservation group ORCA expressed shock and dismay at the brutal killings and called out the Faroese authorities for allowing such activities near a tourist-filled cruise ship. Both ORCA and the cruise line’s CEO highlighted the importance of advocating for marine mammal protection and discouraging any support for the consumption of whale or dolphin meat.