Backfire in Watson’s whale wars – updated

When Paul Watson, the Canadian who heads the Sea Shepherd Society, attempted to disrupt a traditional pilot whale harvest on the Faroe Islands last year, canny local fishermen postponed the event until no whales appeared until after the HMS Brigit Bardot weighed anchor and departed the tiny country’s waters. (See further update here.)

This deprived Watson of gory footage for a TV series celebrating his latest charismatic crusade. Still, when the four-part series aired on US cable channels this spring, Faroese government officials braced for a backlash.

What they got was something quite different: a flood of tourism inquiries. The documentary’s B-roll footage of the spectacular Faroese countryside and coastline apparently inspired awe among nature-loving viewers, many of whom wanted to know how to get there.

“We have not had any negative influence from the whale war show,” wrote Industry Minister Johan Dahl, whose cabinet responsibilities include tourism, in an email to Contrarian. “Rather the opposite: Tourist and traveller figures are up.

A source in the tourism ministry said inquiries spiked immediately after Watson’s video aired.

The Faroes, population 48,700, are a self-governing protectorate of Denmark, with a combined area of 1,399 square km. or about one-seventh the size of Cape Breton. They are hard to reach from Canada–via year-round flights from Copenhagen and Reykjavik, and seasonal flights from England and Scotland–but definitely worth the effort.