Locals rescue pilot whales in Iceland

In Iceland, a country often tarnished by its fin and minke whale hunting industry, local people have been helping to rescue over 100 long-finned pilot whales that became trapped on the shoreline around the Snæfellsnes Peninsula in the west of the country. People in the area flocked to the scene in an attempt to push them back out to sea and to safety.

The large group of whales initially swam towards the shore east of the town Ólafsvík. According to reports, local sailor, Snorri Rafnsson was one of the first to spot them and immediately went out on his kayak to try to herd them away from the shore.

“I knew what was happening, they would swim up to the shore and strand there. This has happened a few times since I was a kid,” he said in an interview with Icelandic broadcaster, mbl.is.

After a short while a local search and rescue team took over and managed to move the whales further from the shore. As is often the case with pilot whale strandings, the whales turned around and swam back towards the shore with five stranding on the beach, confused and wounded after hitting rocks.

Although pilot whales are not hunted by Iceland’s whalers, an end to Iceland’s fin and minke hunts maybe in sight following the recent indications by Thorgerdur Katrin Gunnarsdottir, the new Icelandic Fisheries Minister that Iceland’s whaling policy would be reviewed.

A live whale or dolphin beached on the shore is almost always in danger of death. They are helpless on land and usually die within a few hours or days if not appropriately attended to.

Long-finned pilot whale
Long-finned pilot whale

Species like pilot whales have very strong social bonds and often follow a leader. The frequently strand in large groups when it appears that either a lead whales has made a navigational mistake or one individual has become sick or wounded and led the rest of the pod onto the shore.

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