Thu. Apr 25th, 2019

Russia orders the release of 'imprisoned' whales in the Far East | Science

Russia orders the release of 'imprisoned' whales in the Far East | Science


The whales in captivity in the Russian Far East they will be released. Russia has signed an agreement with a group of international scientists on Monday, including Jean-Michel Cousteau, son of the French oceanographer Jacques Cousteau, to release the nearly one hundred whales held for months in small pools in the Sea of ​​Okhotsk. East of Russia and already in the Pacific. The companies that had captured them planned to sell them to marine parks or aquariums in China, even though the law forbids it. A scandal that has unleashed criticism of international organizations and forced the Kremlin to finally react.

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The decision of the authorities coincided with the visit of Cousteau, and his team from the Ocean Future Society, and Charles Vinick, executive director of the Whale Sanctuary Project, unfortunately already famous whale prison. And it seems that the visit of these experts, invited by the Russian authorities, has given the definitive impulse for the signing of the liberation. A few weeks ago, faced with international condemnation and almost half a year of denunciations, Russian President Vladimir Putin had ordered that they be returned to the sea and an investigation into the capturing companies.

Whales, which can be sold for millions of dollars depending on the species - each specimen is sold for one million dollars, although the Chinese aquariums they explain in their web that the price of a orca bought in Russia can be of about 6.5 million dollars--, they were captured in the island of Sakhalin between last summer and autumn by four companies linked to a single person. Some, with antecedents and fines already for illegal trade of animals.

State authorities, Primorski regional authorities - where they are held captive - and the group of scientists have signed a release protocol, which will be gradual. The plan includes the creation of a special rehabilitation facility for these mammals, which resembles its natural environment. "Scientists from the Cousteau team and Russian scientists will decide when and what animals to release," the governor of the Primorski region, Oleg Kozhemyako, told the media after the signing of the program.

The operation is immense. And millionaire: it can cost about 300 million rubles (about 4.1 million euros), according to experts from the Vniro Oceanographic Institute of Russia. This includes the costs of the individual transfer of animals in custom-made containers and the work of a group of specialists who will help orcas and whales adapt to life in freedom.


Several whales in the marine corral in the Bay of Srednyaya in a photo taken by the NGO Sakhalin Environment Watch at the end of January.enlarge photo
Several whales in the marine corral in the Bay of Srednyaya in a photo taken by the NGO Sakhalin Environment Watch at the end of January.

On Friday, the Minister of Natural Resources of Russia, Dmitri Kobylkin said that it is an unprecedented operation. "Never before has there been such a situation in the world," said Kobylkin, who stressed that the decision had not been made before due to the cold of winter, which could hinder the process. In the last two decades, the captured whales have been released in small groups or individually. Whales prey in the Russian Far East are expected to be released not all at once, but in large groups. And they will be taken to the place where they were captured.

"So maybe they can meet their family or their group," said Cousteau. "Each animal is an individual and should be treated as an individual," said expert Vinick. "Like us!" Added the French oceanographer. Both specialists will work together.


An orca in one of the marine corrals in an image taken by the NGO Sakhalin Environment Watch at the end of January.enlarge photo
An orca in one of the marine corrals in an image taken by the NGO Sakhalin Environment Watch at the end of January.

The plight of captive whales has mobilized experts, activists and celebrities from around the world. A petition to release them, shared by the actors Leonardo DiCaprio or Pamela Anderson, already reaches almost a million and a half signatures. Meanwhile, the Federal Security Service (FSB) has filed charges against the four companies involved in the hunt for violating fishing laws.

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