On Saturday 7th July, the Hvalur hf. Whaling company, having taken 21 fin whales already this season in Iceland, landed a whale that several of us have identified as a blue whale, a species which has been globally protected since 1966. It was brought in to the whaling station at Hvalfjörður where photographs were taken by the German Campaign Group, Hard to Port, and by the crew of the Sea Shepherd.
The CEO of the company, Kristján Loftsson, claims that it was a hybrid blue-fin whale. These do occur, though rarely, in Icelandic waters.
However, when the images were reviewed by whale scientists Drs Phil Clapham, Richard Sears, and Peter Evans, their view was that it bore all the features of a classic blue whale – blue-grey mottled body coloration, no white on the right lower jaw and baleen plates (characteristic of fin whale), and a very small dorsal fin.
The body coloration in particular means that a whaler would scarcely mistake it for a fin whale. Photographs of the animal are attached here, and for comparison, there is an image of a well-known blue-fin whale hybrid (confirmed from DNA testing) from north of Húsavik. That animal has some blue coloration but a much more pronounced dorsal fin.
Richard Sears, who has been studying blue whales in the Gulf of St Lawrence for several decades, makes the point: “Totally agree this is a blue whale to me through and through. We have a section in our catalogues for what we feel are hybrids and they have both pigmentation types on their flanks, not to mention the flukes are more white, ventrally, on the hybrids, much like fins. The baleen is all black, the head is blue whale shaped the flipper have characteristic white border found on blues and there is no variance in my view of the pigmentation, plus it is very pale as with most blue whales compared to fins.”
Samples of the whale have gone for DNA testing.
Peter GH Evans