Where are the Faroe Islands? Dolphin killing explained and why they do it - as 2021 sees record slaughter

The hunting of sea mammals, known as the grind, is a tradition that has been practised for hundreds of years on the Faroe Islands

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Anger has arisen after almost 1,500 dolphins were killed on the Faroe Islands on Sunday (12 September).

But where are the Faroe Islands and why were so many mammals killed there?

Here’s what you need to know.

Where are the Faroe Islands?

The Faroe Islands are an archipelago of 18 mountainous islands located halfway between Scotland and Iceland in the Northeast Atlantic.

The Faroe Islands are a self-governing nation under the external sovereignty of the Kingdom of Denmark.

They legislate and govern independently in a wide range of areas including the conservation and management of living marine resources, protection of the environment, trade, taxation, energy and transport.

Why does dolphin hunting take place in the Faroe Islands?

The hunting of sea mammals, known as the grind - or Grindadrap in Faroese - is a tradition that has been practised for hundreds of years on the Faroe Islands.

In EU nations, the UK and many other countries around the world, it is illegal to harass and chase a dolphin or whale using a boat, but the self-governing Faroe Islands is able to set its own laws on the issue.

However, the practice of dolphin hunting in the Islands has come under scrutiny after 1,428  of the mammals were killed in what was believed to be a record catch.

The pod of dolphins was driven by speedboats and jet-skis into the largest fjord in the North Atlantic territory on Sunday, with boats herding them into shallow waters at Skalabotnur beach in Eysturoy, where they were then killed with knives.

The carcases were then pulled ashore and distributed to locals for consumption.

The Faroese government said that about 600 pilot whales are caught every year on average, with white-sided dolphins caught in lower numbers, such as 35 in 2020 and 10 in 2019.

Supporters of the practice say whaling is a sustainable way of gathering food from nature and an important part of their cultural identity, but this has long been disagreed by animal rights activists who believe it is both cruel and unnecessary.

However, although the hunting of sea mammals is a common practice in the Faroe Islands, the scale of the killing at Skalabotnur beach shocked many locals and even drew criticism from those involved in the practice.

The chairman of the Faroese Whalers Association, Olavur Sjurdarberg, also acknowledged that killing was excessive in an interview with the BBC.

Mr Sjurdarberg, who did not participate in the hunt, said: "It was a big mistake.”

He explained that "when the pod was found, they estimated it to be only 200 dolphins,” and that only when the killing process started did they find out the true size of the pod.

He added: "Somebody should have known better. Most people are in shock about what happened."