It may be a hybrid species from a cross between a blue whale and a fin whale, a rare phenomenon.
Blue whale, fin whale, or hybrid ? The controversy is growing in Iceland, following accusations by an animal rights association that a blue whale has been harpooned for the first time in fifty years.
“Sea Shepherd volunteers monitoring the valuer HF whaling station in Hvalfjördur, Iceland, documented the killing of a threatened blue whale on the night of July 7,” The International Association said in a statement. The blue whale has been a protected species since 1966 and its hunting is prohibited by the International Whaling Commission.
However, many experts in Iceland question the claims made by Sea Shepherd. According to experts, the harpooned animal has characteristics similar to the blue whale… and the fin whale, the second largest living animal on the planet after the blue whale. However, the only Icelandic fin whale hunting company, Hvalfjördur, was allowed to go back to sea in April.
A hybrid species ?
The animal thus has “a broad dorsal side with a small fin like fins, which may explain why it was killed as such,” said Gisli Vikingsson, marine biologist and whale Specialist at the Institute for marine and freshwater research. “Its size and marks on the skin on the sides are close to the blue whale,” he added.
“We harpooned him thinking he was a common rorqual,” said HVALUR hf, speaking to his CEO, Kristjan Loftsson, who was interviewed by AFP. We see blue whales in the sea all the time without ever touching them, because we identify them by the breath emitted by their vent. “Indeed, the breath is greater in blue whales than in other species of whales.
According to Gisli Vikingsson, it may be a hybrid species from a cross between the blue whale and the fin whale, a rare phenomenon. Since 1987, five such animals have been observed in the Icelandic seabed, according to Mr Loftsson. They all suffer from infertility.
“Activity imprecise and imperfect “
By the end of July, the first results of analyses should be available – but may not be sufficient. A DNA test, initially scheduled for this autumn, will also be carried out quickly in the face of the debates surrounding the taking.
“This shows how imprecise and imperfect this activity is and that there is absolutely no need to continue it,” said Sigursteinn Masson, head of the Icelandic branch of the International Fund for Animal Welfare. “Hybrids are even more scarce than blue whales, which are themselves listed as endangered,” he added, calling for an immediate halt to the hunting of fin whales.
There is no legislation governing hybrid whaling. However, its trade is regulated by the Convention on international trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and flora.