Heart-breaking photos have emerged appearing to show that hunters in Iceland killing a rare blue whale, which are protected after they nearly became extinct due to commercial whaling.
The whaling company had resumed a controversial hunt for fin whales on 22 June after a two-year break and said they killed the blue whale by accident.
Icelandic whalers were spotted killing the whale earlier this week, with concerning pictures showing the animal’s dark belly and black baleen - indicating it is a blue whale.
The whale’s carcass was seen being hauled in to the port by Hvalur 8 ship tied to the side of a vessel before it was dragged on to the dock.
The animal rights campaigners Hard To Port published photos of the whale landing in Hvalfjörður.
Humane Society International’s Senior Marine Scientist, Mark Simmonds, said: “It looks very much as though Iceland has harpooned the first blue whale in over fifty years, and if that’s the case then that’s really horrifying news.
“It’s bad enough that Iceland is already killing endangered fin whales, but it beggars belief that this whaling crew couldn't even tell the difference between a fin and blue whale.
“This terrible incident comes as Japan is rumoured to be planning an attempt to overturn the global moratorium on commercial whaling, and clearly speaks to how utterly inappropriate it is for countries to even contemplate allowing a large-scale return to this grossly inhumane and haphazard industry.
“Iceland’s whaling is rogue and archaic and should command diplomatic criticism at the highest levels.”
Blue whales can reach up to 33 metres in length and have been protected by the International Whaling Commission since 1966.
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.
Activists want the animal to have DNA tests to prove it is a blue whale.
Dr Phillip Clapham from NOAA Alaska Fisheries Science Centre said: “It has all the characteristics of a blue whale; given that - notably the coloration pattern.
“There is almost no possibility that an experienced observer would have misidentified it as anything else at sea”
Gísli Arnór Víkingsson at the Iceland Marine Institute, said: “We heard about this strange whale straight away and an employee reports that it's in many ways similar to a hybrid which has been brought to us quite a lot recently which is unusual. Photographs point to the fact that it's a hybrid whale and we're almost certain that it is one, but we can't be sure until autumn when we get it DNA tested.”
Arne Feuerhahn, CEO of campaign group Hard to Port, said: “This is an unacceptable tragedy that leaves people around the world speechless. It is very unfortunate that the reckless and irresponsible actions of a single individual stain the reputation of this progressive and beautiful country.”