Many in the Faroe Islands believe that hunting is vital to their way of life, but when a local doctor makes a grim discovery about the effects of marine pollution, environmental changes threaten to end the controversial tradition and change the community forever.
Local toxicologist, Dr Pál Weihe, conducted a thirty-year study of thousands of the islands’ children. He found that eating the contaminated whale meat could cause permanent cognitive impairment to children exposed in the womb, and could also be linked to theislands’ high rate of Parkinson’s Disease, as well as other health problems. He concluded that the pilot whales were no longer suitable for human consumption. Although not acute, the health problems were significant, and affect us all, many species of fish also contain high levels of the same pollutants. The Faroe Islanders say their story is an early warning to us all.
As the islanders come to terms with the health revelations, they face increased pressure from the outside world to stop the whale hunts. Hundreds of anti-whaling activists arrive, determined to physically intervene in the hunts. Their presence creates a defensive reaction, the Faroese argue that the hunts are lawful and that the whales are not endangered and vow not to stop, but issues of pollution linger, leaving the community torn on how long this way of life will continue.
Director Mike Day spent three years filming across the Faroe Islands, following the hunters, a family who must choose between imported and traditional foods, the local doctor whose decades long study revealed the risks of eating the whale meat, and an ornithologist and taxidermist fighting to protect the seabirds. Mike’s unique access meant that he was able to capture the whole picture, including the controversial hunts in full.
The Island and the Whales is a film
about how we live with the natural world, it is about our roots, identity, and the dangers of disconnection from our environment. It is a film about the difficult choices that we must make in the
face of a changing world.