Apparently in the Faroe Islands it is perfectly legal to kill a protected species, but it is illegal to push them back out to sea in order to keep them from harm's way because that is considered 'harassment'.
A Danish court in Tórshavn, Faroe Islands has found Sea Shepherd Captain Jessie Treverton of the UK guilty of breaching Faroese animal welfare laws by causing "unnecessary suffering" to a pod of dolphins.
The conviction is replete with irony as Sea Shepherd was only present in waters off the Faroe Islands, a self-governing territory of Denmark, in an attempt to prevent the slaughter of hundreds of dolphins and other cetaceans.
And the alleged 'cruelty' against the dolphins consisted of trying to guide them away from a killing beach where they faced certain death at the hands of islanders wielding long, razor-sharp knives.
Each year over 800 pilot whales and other small cetaceans are regularly slaughtered in the Faroe Islands in a practice known as the grindadráp, which Sea Shepherd has actively opposed since the 1980s.
It was during one of these actions on 17th September 2014 that Captain Treverton and two other Sea Shepherd crew members from France attempted to protect a pod of over 200 officially protected Atlantic white-sided dolphins from the grindadráp.
They attempted to drive them away from one of the Faroe Islands' 23 'approved killing beaches' using their speedboat MV Spitfire. After being chased and boarded by Danish armed forces, the boat was confiscated and the three women were arrested by Faroese police.
'A legal precedent has been set, driving dolphins is against Faroese law.'
After multiple postponements of her trial date by the Danish court in the Faroe Islands, on November 24th Captain Treverton's case was finally heard, wherin she was found guilty of causing unnecessary suffering to a pod of dolphins and ordered to pay a fine of 5,500 Danish Kroner (approximately €740).
"I am very happy to accept the court's verdict that my driving a pod of dolphins to safety was against animal welfare laws, because if the law applies to me then it surely must also apply to the Faroese people", said Captain Treverton. "A legal precedent has been set, driving dolphins is against Faroese law. This is a victory for the oceans."
"This is a landmark ruling", said Geert Vons, campaign leader for Sea Shepherd's operations against the grindadráp. "Jessie's guilty verdict sets a precedent that the process of manoeuvring a small boat with view to 'herd' dolphins is considered a breach of the Faroese animal welfare law. This is exactly what the Faroese boats do when they herd pods of pilot whales onto the killing beaches to be slaughtered."
Commenting on the arrest of Captain Treverton and the two crew members at the time, Sea Shepherd Founder Captain Paul Watson said:
"Apparently in the Faroe Islands it is perfectly legal to kill a protected species, but it is illegal to push them back out to sea in order to keep them from harm's way because that is considered 'harassment'. The good news is, however, that a pod of hundreds of white-sided dolphins were successfully 'harassed' away from the vicious knives of the whalers.
"Last year, in August 2013, 450 white-sided dolphins fell to the cruel knives of these cetacean-slaughtering thugs. Fortunately the hundreds spotted today remain safe at sea. These three Sea Shepherd women can proudly say that they successfully 'harassed' the dolphins for the purpose of saving their lives."
But the boat is returned to Sea Shepherd, with its engines
The Faroese prosecutor attempted to argue in court that the boat should not be returned, or only the Spitfire's hull should be returned without the two 200hp engines. However, the Danish judge ruled that the MV Spitfire be given back intact.
"After over two years of being denied use of MV Spitfire, Sea Shepherd UK has successfully challenged the Faroese prosecutor's decision to seize the boat", said Rob Read, Sea Shepherd UK's Chief Operations Officer, who was present at the six-hour hearing on to challenge the seizure and confiscation of the MV Spitfire.
"Only when comprehensive checks on the condition of the boat and engines have been completed in the Faroe Islands will the Spitfire return to the UK."
In expectation of this ruling, Captain Treverton has provided police with a significant amount of video evidence to open an investigation into multiple breaches of Faroese animal welfare laws by Faroes participants in the 2016 grindadráp.
Oliver Tickell is contributing editor at The Ecologist.