'First blue whale' caught in 50 years

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.

The whaling station crew posed for photos next to and even on top of the whale 'in a sign they knew very well this was a rare Blue whale, ' monitors Sea Shepherd claimed.

Blue whales reach up to 33 meters (108 feet) in length, and have been protected by the International Whaling Commission since 1966, after uncontrolled and illegal commercial whaling left their populations on the brink of extinction.

An Icelandic company has been accused of harpooning and killing an endangered blue whale by an anti-whaling activist group. "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". "If this were a blue whale it would be against the regulations of the worldwide whaling commision but if it's a hybrid there are no rules that have been broken".

Phillip Clapham, head of cetacean assessment at the Marine Mammal Laboratory in Seattle, studied photographs of the whale caught by Hvalur and said it was likely to be a blue whale, not a hybrid.

Kristján Loftsson, the multi-millionaire CEO of Hvalur hf whaling company, told the Telegraph he was "pretty confident" tests would confirm the animal was a hybrid species and not a blue whale.

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

Sea Shepherd UK's Chief Operating officer Robert Read demanded that DNA samples should be taken from from all the whale meat and parts in storage at Loftsson's whaling station and warehouses. HSI noted the features of a blue whale are a darker belly, all black baleen and bluish colour.

The Hvalur 8 bringing in slaughtered whales.

Sea Shepard said it was the 22nd whale killed by Loftsson's outfit in the past three weeks, the other being endangered fin whales.

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

"I have viewed plenty of blue whales on the surface, dived with them beneath the surface in West Australia, off the coast of California, in the Southern Ocean and in the waters off Newfoundland", he said. Before the commercial whaling of the 20th century there were about quarter of a million blue whales.

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