A cruise ship owner has apologised to guests who saw the killing of dozens of pilot whales in the Faroe Islands.
Passengers watched in horror from Ambassador Cruise Line’s 47,000-gt Ambition (built 1999) as 78 animals were slaughtered in the port of Torshavn, NPR reported.
The hunt was part of a long-standing local tradition in the Danish-controlled islands.
Among the passengers were conservationists with ORCA, a marine life lobby group aiming to protect whales and dolphins in European waters.
Since 2021, Ambassador Cruise Line has paid for ORCA staff to join its cruises to educate tourists and collect data.
ORCA representatives noted more than 40 small boats herd the whales to a beach where 150 people worked to drag the mammals ashore with hooks and kill them with lances, the report said.
ORCA added that the hunt lasted about 20 minutes.
Some of the animals, which included nine calves, took more than 30 seconds to die.
Ambassador Cruise Line said it was “incredibly disappointed” about the incident.
The UK owner added it continues to “strongly object to this practice”.
The company asked passengers not to support the hunters by buying local whale and dolphin meat.
“Sustainability is one of Ambassador Cruise Line’s core values, and we fully appreciate that witnessing this local event would have been distressing for the majority of guests onboard,” Ambassador Cruise Line said on Twitter. “Accordingly, we would like to sincerely apologise to them for any undue upset.”
In the Faroe Islands, the hunting of pilot whales is known as the “grindadrap”.
The islanders view the tradition as central to their cultural identity and a sustainable way to gather food, a government website says.
The meat is mostly distributed for free in the local community.
ORCA chief executive Sally Hamilton said the event near the cruise ship made it seem as if the whalers were “flaunting the hunt and taunting the tourists”.
“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,” she said on a statement published on the ORCA website.
“On one hand, they promote their pristine environment and spectacular wildlife while simultaneously wielding gaff hooks and lances to kill whales and dolphins.”
TradeWinds staff contributed to this story.