Captured Russian whales and orcas to be freed from ‘whale jail’, but not free

Captured Russian whales and orcas to be freed from 'whale jail', but not free

March 13, 2019– Mary Greeley News – Dozens of beluga whales and orcas are being held in icy waters in Russia after they were captured by a fishery. The so-called “whale jail” has been condemned by activists and Russia has promised to free the animals.

Almost 100 captured beluga whales and orcas are languishing at a coastal fishery in far-east Russia, which allegedly sought to sell the animals to Chinese aquariums, activists said.

Earlier this month, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexei Gordeyev vowed to remove the whales from the fishery in Srednyaya Bay, Russian news agency Interfax reported.

The facility — found to be in possession of 87 whales and 11 orcas — is due to be emptied as soon as weather conditions are warm enough for the animals to be transported, Gordeyev said.

Captured Russian whales and orcas to be freed from 'whale jail', but not free

They will then be taken to a center that specializes in caring for large marine wildlife at Russky Island near the far-eastern city of Vladivostok.

But for now, the fate of the animals remains unclear, as they continue to sit in icy waters in small rectangular pens in what has been labelled a “whale jail.”

Captured Russian whales and orcas to be freed from 'whale jail', but not free

Fishing companies charged

Gordeyev’s promise came after Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) brought charges against four companies in late February for breaking fishing laws and demanded that the whales be freed.

“Expertise showed that the animals were kept in unsatisfactory conditions, and must be released into their natural habitat,” the TASS news agency cited the FSB as saying.

Captured Russian whales and orcas to be freed from 'whale jail', but not free

The FSB said it had been instructed to empty the facility after uncovering the 98 sea creatures, according to a statement carried by Russian news wires.

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Animals in distress

Dmitry Lisitysn, head of Russian NGO Sakhalin Environment Watch, was invited by authorities to visit the facility on January 18 and 19 to assess the animals’ health, National Geographic reported.

Captured Russian whales and orcas to be freed from 'whale jail', but not free

Lisitsyn told National Geographic that among the captured whales were 15 beluga babies who likely had not been weaned off their mothers’ milk when they were taken and that all of the beluga whales appeared to be in distress.

Lisitsyn said there were orcas with lesions around their dorsal fins, which could be from frostbite, or a fungal or bacterial infection from the stagnant water.

Mary Greeley News
www.marygreeley.com

credit: in part with https://www.dw.com/en/captured-russian-whales-and-orcas-to-be-freed-from-whale-jail/a-47900840