6 Mar 2019 12:07

Transfer of orcas, belugas from 'whale prison' to Russky Island would delay animals' release - environmentalists

VLADIVOSTOK. March 6 (Interfax) - A coalition of Russian environmental organizations calls against the transfer of orcas and beluga whales from the "whale prison" in Srednyaya Bay to a similar "prison" on Russky Island, saying the ministries' plan would delay the process of releasing the animals into the ocean.

"The transfer of the whales from Srednyaya Bay to Russky Island is unacceptable as it considerably delays their release, worsens their living conditions and essentially replaces one 'wale prison' with a different one. It makes no big difference to the animals where they will be held in captivity," the coalition of environmental organizations called Free Orcas and Beluga Whales said in a press release.

The coalition comprises the following organizations: the Sakhalin Environment Watch, the Sakhalin region's public organizations Bumerang Club and Friends of the Ocean, the Scientific-Environmental Center for Rescuing Dolphins and Other Sea Mammals, and the sea mammals rehabilitation center Tyulen.

The environmentalists said, citing the plan presented in a meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Alexei Gordeyev on March 5, the transfer to Russky Island is planned only when it gets warm. The new Large Sea Mammals Care Center has not even been designed yet.

"All these things mean that the orcas and beluga whales will spend another several months in anti-sanitary conditions in the 'whale prison' in Srednyaya Bay, where they will continue to be trained for use in oceanariums," the environmentalists said.

Russky Island is worse than in Srednyaya Bay and the diseases the animals developed while in captivity may get worse there.

They also said the transfer of the animals to the island, to the opposite side from the places of release and then back to the places of release will require double loading and transportation as compared to the release from Srednyaya Bay, which will create extra stress for the orcas and beluga whales.

"The transfer of such number of large whales is an extremely complex (technically and logistically) operation, which seriously hurts the animals," the environmentalists said. They suggest that the orcas should be released in April and the beluga whales should be released in May from Srednyaya Bay after a brief adaptation course.

According to earlier reports, a decision was made in a meeting between Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexei Gordeyev and officials from the Ministry of Natural Resources, the Ministry of Agriculture, the Federal Agency for Fishery, the Prosecutor General's Office, the Investigative Committee, the Federal Security Service, the Interior Ministry, the Federal Service for State Property Management, and other relevant agencies to transfer the ten orcas and 87 beluga whales from the "whale prison" in Srednyaya Bay near Nakhodka, Primorye Territoty, to the Large Sea Mammals Care Center in one of the bays on Russky island, Vladivostok. Such center has not been built yet.

Twelve orcas and 90 beluga whales were captured in the Sea of Okhotsk to be sold to dolphinariums and oceanariums in 2018. The animals were placed in enclosures in Srednyaya Bay in the area of the city of Nakhodka, Primorye Territory. The place was later dubbed "a whale prison."