Published: Fri, July 13, 2018
Science | By Michele Flores

'Endangered blue whale' harpooned off Iceland coast

"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".

"They are very distinct from a fin whale, that's why they're called a blue whale".

Robert Reed, the Chief Operating Officer of Sea Shepherd, said: "The crime committed against this iconic whale must be fully investigated by independent inspectors with DNA samples taken from all the whale meat and parts in storage at Loftsson's whaling station and warehouses since the whale has been butchered and removed from view potentially to hide the evidence as Loftsson has no authority (even within Iceland) to kill a blue whale".

Experts believe the whale could be a blue whale-fin whale hybrid.

"While I can't entirely rule out the possibility that this is a hybrid, I don't see any characteristics that would suggest that", Phillip Clapham, from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Alaska Fisheries Science Centre, said in a Sea Shepherd statement.

"I am absolutely confident that it's a hybrid", said Kristján Loftsson who runs Hvalur hf, to Matt McGrath at the BBC.

Iceland resumed commercial whaling in 2006. Blue whales, the world's largest species, have been protected since 1966.

An image taken by a conservation group shows an Icelandic company processing a killed whale.

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"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".

"From the photos, it has all the characteristics of a blue whale; given that - notably the coloration pattern - there is nearly no possibility that an experienced observer would have misidentified it as anything else at sea".

It is believed there are maximum of 25,000 blue whales in the world and only five hybrids have been in identified in Iceland since 1986.

The government of Iceland confirmed that "blue whales are protected under Icelandic law with their capture prohibited".

"Iceland's whaling is rogue and archaic and should command diplomatic criticism at the highest levels".

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

"This man must be stopped from ruthlessly violating worldwide conservation law and bringing such disrepute to the nation of Iceland". Prior to the catastrophic commercial whaling of the 20 century it is estimated that there were in the region of a quarter of a million blue whales, but their populations crashed in the 1950s and 60s.

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