But, their controversial ritual poses a health hazard, warn public health authorities.
Dr Pal Weihi, who specialises in toxicology at the Department of Occupational and Public Health on the islands, recommends pregnant women and those planning to have children should avoid eating pilot whales.
That’s because of the high levels of mercury and persistent organic pollutants (POPs) released by industries into the environment, which end up in the whale meat.
Phys Org points out that this can affect people’s intellectual and neurological development, and weaken their immune systems.
This mercury-laced meat has been shown in a major study by Weihi to impair islanders’ cognitive function, and increased their risk of Parkinson’s disease, reports The Guardian.
800 PILOT WHALES KILLED EVERY YEAR
Blue Planet Society has had more than 260,000 people sign its online petition calling for a ban on the hunt of dolphins and small whales in Japan and the Faroe Islands.
It says that “more than 100,000 dolphins and small whales are hunted and killed every year.
“Most hunts are unregulated, illegal and unsustainable with unknown impacts on populations.”
In 2009 a film, The Cove, which showed the practice of shepherding and slaughtering dolphins in a small bay in Taiji, Japan, won an Academy award for best documentary.
It prompted outrage across the world as fishermen were depicted piercing the spines of 2,000 dolphins with a sharp spike, before ramming a wooden plug into the wound to stop the blood turning the sea red.