Drone footage has found about 100 cetaceans kept inside a series of tiny enclosures off Russia’s Pacific coast, near to the southeastern city of Nakhodka.
Activists claim that this “whale jail” was the place where 11 orcas and 90 beluga whales were kept illegally, and Whale and Dolphin Conservation reports that it is the largest number of marine animals to be held in such a way.
According to Snopes:
“The information was originally reported by the independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta on 30 October 2018. The paper revealed that more than 100 whales were caged in small enclosures off Russia’s Pacific coast near the city of Nakhodka, possibly in violation of an international ban on commercial whale hunting. The account has since been picked up by reputable English-language news outlets including CBS News and the UK’s Telegraph.”
Prosecutors intend to investigate if they are being kept in the tiny enclosures illegally. There is evidence that they were caught and kept for commercial purposes, and they were intended to be sold off to Chinese ocean theme parks at a high price.
There are about 60 marine parks in China, and about a dozen are under construction. An Orca whale can reportedly fetch more than $6 million in this booming ocean theme park industry.
Yet, companies claim that the cetaceans were caught for scientific and educational purposes, and lawyers examine the conditions they are being kept in, which have been depicted as “torture” by Greenpeace Russia.
Yet, the footage found there are much more than the 13 companies reportedly received permission to capture. Moreover, the tanks also contained infants, which is off limits and unacceptable even for scientific and educational purposes.
Experts warn that this is harmful to both, the captivated cetaceans, and the future of the species.
Greenpeace Russia research coordinator Oganes Targulyan said:
“Catching them at this tempo, we risk losing our entire orca population. The capture quota now is 13 animals a year, but no one is taking into account that at least one orca is killed for every one that is caught.”
However, Snopes reports:
“Although Russian prosecutors are investigating the capture and export of the animals by four companies, identified by Novaya Gazeta as LLC Oceanarium DV, LLC Afalina, LLC Bely Kit and LLC Sochi Dolphinarium, the fate of the animals is currently unclear.
Thomas Henningsen, a marine biologist who is head of the Russia program for the international environmental activist organization Greenpeace, confirmed to us via email that as of 19 December 2018 the whales were still in the cages and that the conditions there were “disastrous and cruel.”