Time to use trade sanction to end whale and dolphin slaughter on the faroe islands

22 March 2022


Born Free-backed Petition calling for suspension of the Free Trade Agreement with the Faroe Islands reaches over 100,000 signatures amidst growing public support.


The brutal slaughter of over 1400 white sided dolphins on the Faroe Islands in September 2021 triggered huge anger and condemnation around the world and brought global attention back to the long and bloody history of whale and dolphin killing in this beautiful but isolated archipelago 200 miles to the Northwest of Scotland. 

Although the European Union has a ban on the killing of whales and dolphins by its Member States under an EU Council Directive and the Bern Convention, this does not apply to the Faroe Islands as a self-governing country in the Kingdom of Denmark. The Faroe Islands is also not a member of the International Whaling Commission and whale, and dolphin hunts can be legally licenced by the Faroese Government.

In recent decades several marine conservation organisations have attempted to engage with the Government and people of the Faroe Islands to end the whale and dolphin hunts. Public meeting and debates have been held, studies have been produced examining the economic benefits of developing a whale watching industry, documentaries made, books and documents published, yet the brutal killing continues.

A photo of a dolphin emerging from the sea

International trade 

However, one key driver for change within this isolated island community that has been forced to connect with the modern world, is their need for international trade. 

Prior to leaving the European Union, Britain had little leverage over the Faroes or Danish Governments in this area, but that has all changed with Brexit. 

In March 2019 the UK Government entered into a Free Trade Agreement with the Faroe Islands which now accounts for over 25% of the Islands’ global trade. In the past 12 months exports from the Faroe Islands to the UK under this agreement reached £582 million (a 142.5% increase) on the previous year. Most of this trade was in cod, shellfish and farmed salmon which is sold in UK supermarkets. By comparison total UK exports to the Faroe Islands in same period accounted for just £34 million. 

Government Petition 

In September 2021, Born Free’s Policy Advisor and British Wildlife Advocate Dominic Dyer started a Government Petition calling for the suspension of the Free Trade Agreement with the Faroe Islands until all the whale and dolphin hunts end.

In October the Government responded to the Petition achieving 10,000 signatures by stating that ‘The UK strongly opposes the hunting of cetaceans and is committed to upholding high animal welfare standards in its trade relationships. We continue to urge the Faroe Islands to stop cetacean hunts’.

Petition generates growing public support and media coverage 

Over the following five months, tens of thousands more people signed the and shared the Petition, protest marches against the killing of whales and dolphins in the Faroes were held in London and the issue of trade sanctions against the Faroe Islands generated coverage in both the national and broadcast media.

High profile figures including Chris Packham, Deborah Meaden and Ricky Gervais promoted the petition, and the slaughter of whales and dolphins on the Faroe Islands was a key issue of discussion at the Born Free hosted ‘State of the Earth’ Question Time Debate at the COP26 Climate Change Summit in Glasgow in November.

Petition exceeds 100,000 signatures 

On Monday 15 March the Petition exceeded 100,000 signatures and is now being considered for a debate in Parliament.

Reacting to the Petition reaching the 100,00 threshold Dominic Dyer said 

“It is extremely difficult to get a Petition on a wildlife protection issue over 100,000 in six months and I am hugely grateful to everyone who has got behind the campaign to ensure the Faroes Islands trade sanctions petition has exceeded this target.

“No whales or dolphins should be brutally slaughtered in the Faroe Islands to put cod and farmed salmon on our supermarket shelves. It’s time the Government used trade sanctions to end this barbarism for good and I look forward to this being debated in Parliament soon”.