Whalers kill first 'blue whale' in over 40 years in Iceland, and people are furious
For decades, whaling has been a controversial practice that is banned in many countries on account of it putting entire species at the risk of extinction. Despite this, many places still permit the activity - partly for research purposes, but also because whale meat tends to be a huge moneymaker for tourist industries.
In Iceland, hunting whales has been banned and re-legalised a number of times with varying regulations, and it is currently legal there - contrary to the rules that the IWC (International Whaling Commission) has tried to implement.
New outrage over the practice has emerged today, however, as it transpired that whalers in Iceland have killed what appears to be a blue whale: a species that has not been deliberately slaughtered since 1978.
However, the owner of the company responsible for butchering the animal, Kristjan Loftsson, has denied the allegations that the creature is a blue whale. He is claiming that it is either a fin whale or a hybrid of the two species - neither of which are protected under current laws in Iceland.
"I am absolutely confident that it's a hybrid," he said. "To mistake a blue whale for a fin whale is impossible, this whale has all the characterisations of a fin whale in the ocean. There are a lot of blue whales off the Iceland coast, when we see the blows and sail to it, and we realise it is a blue and then we leave it and go and look for fin whales."
On the contrary, Arne Feuerhahn - who is part of the campaign group Hard to Port, which publicised this recent killing - says that nobody can be sure either way at this point.
"We cannot confirm 100 per cent," she said. "We have consulted a lot of international experts, most think that it is a juvenile male blue whale but there also has been some doubts with some believing that it could be a hybrid between a blue and a fin whale."
Even so, some other experts are already confidently stating that this is definitely a pure breed blue whale.
Paul Watson, who founded a marine conservation group called Sea Shepherd, has stated with certainty: "I know a blue whale when I see one and this whale slaughtered by Kristjan Loftsson is a blue whale." He continued: "This man must be stopped from ruthlessly violating international conservation law and bringing such disrepute to the nation of Iceland. There can be no legal justification for this."
The country's official stance is currently that the whale is of an undetermined species.
"While initial information suggests that the animal in question was not a blue whale, we take these reports seriously and the relevant authorities are investigating this matter with all urgency," said Kristján Thor Juliusson, Iceland's Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries.
"At present, Icelandic authorities are not in a position to confirm the species, although initial information from the directorate of fisheries in Iceland suggests the animal caught is not likely to be a blue whale but rather a hybrid of a fin whale and a blue whale."
A confirmation will only be possible once a DNA taste has been conducted.