Whalers accused of slaughtering endangered blue whale off coast of Iceland

Blue Whale carcass

Blue whales were nearly hunted to extinction last century and there are only 10,000 to 25,000 left alive.

"There were no characteristics of a blue whale, it is very easy to tell a blue whale in the ocean".

The huge carcass was seen being hauled in to port by the Hvalur 8 ship while tied to the side of the vessel before being dragged on to the dock on Saturday evening.

Whale campaigners have reacted in horror at photos appearing to show that Iceland has killed a rare blue whale, the largest animal on earth.

'Loftsson ordered his crew to butcher the whale just like it was another Fin whale, ' the anti-whaling group claimed.

It is believed there are maximum of 25,000 blue whales in the world and only five hybrids have been in identified in Iceland since 1986.

They claimed the animal was killed by Kristján Loftsson's whaling company, which has been allowed to slaughter fin whales by Iceland's government despite an global moratorium on whaling and the endangered status of the fin whales.

Activists want the animal to have DNA tests to prove it is a blue whale.

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"From the photos, it has all the characteristics of a Blue whale; given that - notably the coloration pattern - there is nearly no possibility that an experienced observer would have misidentified it as anything else at sea", said Dr. Phillip Clapham, NOAA Alaska Fisheries Science Centre.

Loftsson is allowed by the Icelandic Government to hunt fun whales, despite the global moratorium on whaling, but killing blue whales is illegal everywhere. "Photographs point to the fact that it's a hybrid whale and we're nearly certain that it is one, but we can't be sure until autumn when we get it DNA tested".

No other nation, not even Japan or Norway, slaughters Fin whales, and there had not been a Blue whale harpooned for the last 50 years until this one.

'There is nearly no possibility that an experienced observer would have misidentified it as anything else at sea'.

"The killing of such a majestic creature, blue whale or hybrid, represents a significant crime against nature, given the rarity of these species and the threats to their survival today". Blue whales and Fin whales are protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

"Iceland's whaling is rogue and archaic and should command diplomatic criticism at the highest levels".

Sea Shepherd has had crew on the ground since the slaughter of whales began on June 20.

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