ANIMAL welfare campaigners and politicians last night came out in support of anti-whaling group Sea Shepherd after Scottish police impounded their boat.

A rigid inflatable boat (RIB) was seized under warrant by police in Lerwick, Shetland, following a request by Denmark in a letter issued by the Faroe Islands chief of police.

The small vessel was aboard the Sea Shepherd ship Sam Simon, which was in the Shetland Islands to refuel following efforts to disrupt the killing of pilot whales at a grindadráp, or grind, on Sandavagur beach in the Faroe Islands last month.

The method of slaughter involved stranding pods of cetaceans on designated beaches and the marine conservation charity opposes the practice.

A warrant presented to the captain and ship manager of the Sam Simon claims that there are “reasonable grounds for suspecting an offence has been committed under the law of Denmark”.

Sea Shepherd believes this relates to its efforts to protect 61 whales on August 12 and is seeking legal advice while its craft remains in police custody.

Yesterday the Crown Office and Police Scotland confirmed the action had taken place at Denmark’s request.

But John F Robbins of Animal Concern condemned Scottish authorities, saying he was “absolutely disgusted” at the decision to comply.

He said: “Sea Shepherd are fighting crimes against wildlife in the Atlantic.

“If Police Scotland were doing their job as well as Sea Shepherd there would be a lot less wildlife crime in this county.

“They should have refused the request from Denmark. There is an ignorance, an arrogance and down right stupidity behind this decision.” Captain Alex Cornelissen, chief executive of Sea Shepherd Global, said: “On the one hand, the government of Denmark refuses to abide by EU laws that protect cetaceans.

“On the other, Denmark is abusing its EU position and resources to try to silence Sea Shepherd’s opposition to the grindadráp.

“Denmark’s ongoing support of the slaughter of pilot whales in the Faroe Islands is a national shame.”

The Crown Office said: “The Crown received a letter of request from the Faroese authorities, and subsequently sought a warrant which has now been executed by Police Scotland.

“It would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage.”

Meanwhile, Police Scotland said: “On Tuesday 01 September 2015, police in Lerwick executed a warrant to seize an RIB under the request of the Faroese authorities. The vessel has been seized and is being held as per the request of the Faroese authorities.” Independent MSP John Finnie called the measure “disproportionate”, saying: “The eyes of the world were focused on the Faroe Islands and the Sea Shepherd is a widely respected organisation.

“Perhaps the authorities who have taken this action should appreciate now the eyes of the world are focussed on Scotland.

“It’s a question of proportionality – this would seem disproportionate.”

The news came as five Sea Shepherd volunteers arrested over the August 12 incident were found guilty of breaking the Faroe Islands Pilot Whaling Act.

Members of the group, including two women and three men from Europe and the United States, were each sentenced to a fine of up to 31,000 kroner (£3,050) or the alternative of 14 days in jail.

All five have indicated they will not pay the fines and it is understood that Faroese police will seek to have the campaigners deported.