The pilot whale (Globicephala melas) is an extremely gregarious animal that regularly swims along the Faroese coast on its migration within its habitat in the northern Atlantic Ocean. During the approximately 300 years for which we have statistics, somewhere between 800 and 1500 whales have been killed annually in the Faroes. It is estimated that 1000 whales can produce roughly 500 tonnes of meat and blubber, and the pilot whale has thus been immensely important to the population of the islands down the ages.
The only terrestrial mammals on the Faroes are a few small rodents. Therefore, the only mammals that have been hunted regularly are seals, to be found in abundance along the coast. One exception is the hare, but it was introduced onto the islands in the 19th century. The capture of pilot whales is not hunting in the true sense of the word. They are not hunted. They are driven ashore when a pod happens to swim by.
On the Faroes there has always been free access to the resources of the sea. This also applies to pilot whales. On the other hand, catching them requires extensive social organisation. On account of the topography of the islands, there are only a few places where it is possible to drive a pod of whales ashore and slaughter them. Since 1832, legislation has governed where pilot whales may be caught. There were probably also rules on this earlier. However, the legislation does not give the inhabitants of a village with a specified catch site a preferential right to catch the whales. The meat and blubber of pilot whales is equally distributed among all inhabitants, whether newborn or elderly. Even visitors get their lawful share. For practical reasons, the country is divided into pilot whale districts, but over time there will be food for all. In this way, a unique distribution system has emerged in connection with the exploitation of this important resource.
Title: Long-finned Pilot Whale
Date of Issue: 22 February 2010
Country: Faroe Islands
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