22 Mar 2019 12:26

Businessmen in Primorye confirm they captured orcas, beluga whales for Russian, Chinese oceanariums

NAKHODKA. March 22 (Interfax) - The head of the Oceanarium DV company, which captured and is keeping orcas and beluga whales in the Primorye region's 'whale jail,' said the animals had been captured in order to be sold to Russian and Chinese oceanariums.

"We have been engaging in these activities for five years. We capture animals for Russian dolphin centers. We supply them to foreign countries, including to China, as part of cultural and educational activities. We initially showed the contracts, we provided all papers [...] We have a plan and contracts signed with the Chinese, and with Russian dolphin centers," Oceanarium DV general director Alexander Bronnikov told reporters on Friday.

One orca costs from $3 million to $3.5 million and one beluga whale costs around $150,000, he said.

About a hundred orcas and beluga whales were caught in the Sea of Okhotsk in 2018 to be sold to dolphin centers and oceanariums. The animals were placed in the Sea Mammals Care Center located in the Srednyaya Bay near the city of Nakhodka, which animal rights activists have called 'a whale jail.' Following public intervention and actions taken by the Prosecutor General's Office and the Investigative Committee, it emerged that there were 11 orcas, which are in the Red Book of the Kamchatka Territory, and 90 small beluga whales, which had been captured with numerous violations of the legislation.

Three beluga whales and one orca disappeared from the cages. The hunters said that the animals had escaped, but the environmentalists said they died. Animal rights activists said that the whales were in a deplorable condition: their skin was scratched, which could cause infectious diseases.

The future of the animals is now being decided by a concilium of scientists led by the Russian Research Institute of Fisheries and Oceanography (VNIRO), created on the orders of Russian President Vladimir Putin. They believe some of the animals may be sent to oceanariums. Public organizations that are not included in the concilium believe this intention is illegal and demand that the animals be returned to the ocean after brief rehabilitation.