Rare blue whale hybrid possibly hunted by Icelandic whaling company

However experts believe the whale could be a blue whale-fin whale hybrid.

Iceland resumed commercial whaling in 2006.

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.

Photos show the huge animal lying dead on the ground in Iceland, as people stand nearby.

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

Multiple experts who saw the photos said the whale was nearly certainly a blue whale, going by its colour, pattern, and fin and tail shape.

"It's bad enough that Iceland is already killing endangered fin whales, but it beggars belief that this whaling crew couldn't even tell the difference between a fin and blue whale".

"Killing a blue whale is unforgivable".

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.

Humane Society International's Senior Marine Scientist, Mark Simmonds, said: "It looks very much as though Iceland has harpooned the first blue whale in over fifty years, and if that's the case then that's really horrifying news. 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 testetd", he says speaking to mbl.is.

Blue whales can reach up to 30 metres 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.

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.

'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. "Hybrids are not a protected species".

Sea Shepherd Founder Captain Paul Watson is appealing to Icelandic authorities to stop the whaler from further hunting.

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

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