GRAPHIC IMAGES: Endangered fin whales slaughtered in Iceland

A series of gruesome images captured by marine wildlife activists shows the commercial slaughter of endangered fin whales in Iceland.

The images were released by the ocean conservation group Sea Shepherd UK, which has been monitoring the resumption of commercial fin whale hunting in Iceland, the only country where the marine mammals can be hunted commercially. Activists have been closely watching the activities of whaling company Hvalur hf. The company operates a large whaling station at Hvalfjörður on the west coast of Iceland and two ships that hunt the fin whales. 

Hvalur hf Managing Director Kristján Loftsson told Fox News that, with tens of thousands of fin whales in the waters around Iceland the company is catching a tiny percentage of the overall population in that area. Hvalur hf has a quota of 161 fin whales. The fin whale population around Iceland is estimated to be 40,000-plus, Loftsson said.

EXCLUSIVE: GRISLY PICS SHOW MASS WHALE SLAUGHTER IN REMOTE FAROE ISLANDS HUNTS

The whales can be hunted during a 100-day season that starts June 10. 

WhaleFin3

This picture of a slaughtered fin whale was taken on June 22, 2018. (Sea Shepherd)

"If you have a farmer in the U.S. who had 40,000 head of cattle, he would cull at least 161 a year," Loftsson added. 'If there are healthy whale stocks, like the fin whales, this is a sustainable process."

Hvalur hf's boats have caught seven whales for far this season, he added.

'UNPRECEDENTED' ORCA HUNTING FRENZY CAPTURED ON FILM

Controversial hunting of fin whales stopped in Iceland in 2015, when Japanese authorities refused to import Iceland’s catch because of insufficient research about health code requirements. The commercial hunting recently resumed, Sea Shepherd reports.

WhaleFin2

This picture was taken on June 22, 2018  (Sea Shepherd)

Sea Shepherd reports that Hvalur hf has an additional quota of 30 fin whales carried over from an unused quota in 2017. 

The second largest mammal in the world after the Blue Whale, fin whales are classified as endangered.

GRUESOME PIC SHOWS MASS SLAUGHTER OF WHALES IN FAROE ISLANDS HUNT

The resumption of commercial hunting has sparked an outcry from animal rights activists. The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) describes all commercial whaling as “inherently cruel.” Some 706 fin whales have been killed since Iceland resumed the commercial whaling of fin whales 12 years ago, it reports. “There is no humane way to kill a whale,” explains Sigursteinn Masson, the IFAW representative for Iceland, in a recent blog post.

WhaleFin4

This photograph was taken on June 27, 2018  (Sea Shepherd)

“When hunters spot a fin whale, they fire a 90 mm cannon to impale the animal with a grenade-tipped harpoon. A rope attached to the harpoon allows them to tie the whale to the ship and tow him or her to a butcher station onshore,” wrote PETA, in a recent blog post.

The fin whale population is considered critically low outside the Central North Atlantic region surrounding Iceland, which was the only country where the mammals were hunted commercially.

The latest counts from 2015 put the region’s population at 40,000, the highest on record, Gisli Vikingsson, head of whale research at Iceland’s Marine and Freshwater Research Institute, told AP earlier this year.

“The common misconception is that we are allowing an endangered species to be hunted,” Vikingsson said “But it is only in the southern hemisphere that the fin whale population is critical.”It is thought that 15,000 to 20,000 fin whales are in the southern hemisphere, according to the American Cetacean Society.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers