What you need to know
In early November news sites caught on to the illegal holding of over 100 whales in Srednyaya Bay near the Russian city of Nakhodka. There are several tiny pens which hold 90 beluga whales and 12 orcas and are guarded by armed men. The animals are believe to have been caught for sale on the black market to circuses and marine parks. An independent newspaper, Novaya Gazeta, claims the animals have been in detainment since July.
Developments in the case
Russian prosecutors determined the detainment of the animals was for illegal commercial purposes. President Vladimir Putin has ordered that the whales be released upon inspection and decision from specialists to ensure that they are fit for reintegration to the wild as many of the animals were very young when caught.
The four companies that were involved in the capture of the whales actually had permission to catch 13 orcas this year for conservation or educational purposes. The capturing of infants and young whales as a lot of these are is banned in Russia.
The Russian prosecutor general’s office has called on the Interior Ministry to launch an investigation into the capture and sale of seven orcas to China between 2012-2015.
Greenpeace Russia commented that typically when catching a whale from the wild one dies for every one that is caught. It is not an easy process to catch animals as big as whales and typically involves casualties no matter what.
Feb. 28: Charges have been brought against four companies for illegally capturing and holding the whales. These same companies have run into trouble before with illegally capturing and selling animals to amusement parks.
The Animals Health
As of February 28th, three belugas and one orca were marked as escaping their enclosures. Activists are certain this claim is false and that the whales, in fact, died in their holding cells, but to avoid further criminal charges the companies holding the animals filled out official police reports saying they escaped.
There are also cameras, human guards, and heavy-duty nets keeping them in place so the idea that one (let alone 4) escaped is just not believable.
Currently, the whales are being held in very tiny, cramped enclosures in the bay. Ice has also begun to take over the surface of the enclosures. Greenpeace Russia has deemed the conditions of the whales as torture.
How you can help
Please go here to see what you can do to help make sure these whales get released:
Images and Video of the “Whale Jail”
WDC, National Geographic, Free Russian Whales, The Times