The waters that surround the Danish Faroe Islands, located between Norway and Iceland, recently washed on the shore blood-red.
According to Express, this wasn’t due to a natural phenomenon — it was because of the area’s annual summer whale culling, which draws local participants as young as 5 years old.
Since the 16th century, residents of the Faroe Islands have spent part of the summer herding pilot whales, smaller mammals that resemble porpoises, to shallow waters so they can kill the animals by breaking their spines.
This year hundreds of the whales were slaughtered in an annual act that helps the Faroese prepare for harsh winters. Many Faroese eat the whale meat through the winter and use the animals’ organs as bait for fishing, according to the report “Small Cetaceans, Big Problems,” by the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI), Pro Wildlife and Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC).
The same report notes a rising concern from conservationists about these kills, since there is no regulated quota for how many pilot whales are allowed to be killed each year. Additionally, sometimes other kinds of whales or porpoises that are illegal to hunt are accidentally killed in the cull.
WARNING: Graphic Imagery Below
While the winters in the Faroe Islands are difficult, the report notes that pilot whale meat might not be the best answer for survival.
RELATED: A Pilot Whale Has Died in Southern Thailand After Swallowing 17 Pounds of Plastic Waste
“The meat, intestines, and blubber of the hunted animals are heavily contaminated with mercury and organochlorines, such as polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) and dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT). These contaminants lead the Faroe Islands Chief Medical Officer and the Chief Physician in 2008 to warn that pilot whales should not be considered fit for human consumption,” reads the recent report.
Still, the Faroese continue to kill and consume hundreds of whales each year.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the only instance of massive whale kills in the world.
“Most people think of Japan and the Faroe Islands when talking about dolphin hunts but, numerically, the Faroe Islands are not in the top 10 of small cetacean-killing nations and Japan is only ranked 10th. That is because Peru, Nigeria and Madagascar kill small cetaceans not only for food but also for bait, and are now among the most dangerous places on earth for these animals,” Sandra Altherr, biologist for the Germany-based charity Pro Wildlife, said in a statement.