Volunteers who have been monitoring the whaling station’s two boats in Hvalfjordur since 20 June say that the blue, caught on 7 July, was one of 22 endangered whales to be killed and butchered for export to Japan by the station in that time, the others all being fin whales.

The Icelandic government had given the station permission to catch up to 161 fin whales despite the international moratorium on whaling and CITES protection for the endangered species, says Sea Shepherd. It had not, however, permitted the killing of blue whales, which are also CITES-protected.

Sea Shepherd points out that even Japan or Norway, known for flouting international whaling restrictions, respected the protected status of fin whales, a species second in size only to blue whales.

Crew from one of the station’s boats, Hvalur 8, posed for their own photographs with their kill, an indication that they realised it was something unusual, says Sea Shepherd.

According to Sea Shepherd, after butchering the whale they mixed its flesh, skin and bones with fin-whale meat, a move designed, it claimed, to hinder detection by the authorities. The organisation says that its photographs and video footage prove that the catch was illegal.

Sea Shepherd founder Captain Paul Watson said of Kristján Loftsson, the owner of the whaling station: “This man must be stopped from ruthlessly violating international conservation law and bringing such disrepute to the nation of Iceland. There can be no legal justification for this crime.”

The organisation has called for a full investigation by independent international authorities, including collection of DNA samples at the whaling station.

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