There are quotas for capturing killer whales and beluga whales. Although quite recently they were zero. In 1982, commercial trapping was completely banned. Even indigenous peoples, who to this day can freely engage in their production, have no right to sell them. Since 2002, killer whales have been allowed to be caught. Only on condition that they are sexually mature, are not listed in the Red Book and are not females with obvious signs of pregnancy. However, 11 immature and belonging to the transit subspecies (that is, included in the Red Book) killer whales are for some reason kept in the “whale prison”. Quotas for their capture were received. How? Unknown.
The problem with quotas is that the exact size of the killer whale population in the Sea of Okhotsk is unknown. So, it is unacceptable to catch them yet. Even controlled trapping can hit mammal populations hard. The author of the petition, Yulia Malygina, explains: “The lack of knowledge of cetaceans in the Sea of Okhotsk is a fact that suggests that the extraction of these animals should be banned.” If transiting killer whale calves continue to be harvested, this could lead to complete loss of the species.
As we found out, there are very few killer whales that are now kept near Nakhodka in the world. Just a few hundred. Unfortunately, they give birth to cubs only once every five years. Therefore, this species needs special observation – outside the “whale prison”.
Cultural and educational goals
Nevertheless, four companies received official permission to harvest mammals. All of them were caught according to the quota for educational and cultural purposes. This means that killer whales and beluga whales should either go to dolphinariums or scientists for research. And according to Greenpeace Russia, the animals will be sold to China. After all, the declared companies are only hiding behind educational goals. Oceanarium DV indeed applied for permission to export beluga whales, but as a result of checks, it was refused by the Ministry of Natural Resources. Russia is the only country in the world where the sale of killer whales to other countries is allowed, so the decision could easily be made in the interests of entrepreneurs.
Mammals for these companies are of great value, and not only cultural and educational. The cost of marine life is 19 million dollars. And money can easily be obtained by selling Mormleks abroad.
This case is far from the first. In July, the Prosecutor General’s Office discovered that four commercial organizations, whose names were not made public, provided the Federal Agency for Fishery with false information. They also stated that they would use killer whales in cultural and educational activities. Meanwhile, they themselves illegally sold seven animals abroad.
To prevent such cases, the activists created a petition on the website of the Russian Public Initiative . The authors of the petition are confident that this will be able toto protect the national heritage of the Russian Federation and the biological diversity of the Russian seas. It will also contribute to the “development of tourism in the natural habitats of marine mammals” and enhance the image of our country at the international level as a state that accepts “high standards of environmental conservation.”
In the case of killer whales and beluga whales, all violations are obvious. Eleven killer whales are calves and are listed in the Red Book of the Kamchatka Territory, 87 belugas are beyond the age of puberty, that is, none of them are ten years old yet. Based on this, the Investigative Committee initiated (and correctly did) a case on illegal catching of animals.
After that, the investigators found that the killer whales and beluga whales in the adaptation center are being improperly cared for, and their conditions of detention leave much to be desired. First, it is important to take into account that killer whales in nature develop a speed of more than 50 kilometers per hour, in Srednyaya Bay they are in a pool 25 meters long and 3,5 meters deep, which does not give them the opportunity to accelerate. This was done ostensibly for security reasons.
Moreover, as a result of the examination, wounds and changes in the skin were found in some animals. The prosecutor’s office noted violations in the field of sanitary control on the basis of overexposure. The rules for storing frozen fish for feeding are violated, there is no information on disinfection, there are no treatment facilities. At the same time, marine mammals are under constant stress. One individual is suspected of having pneumonia. Water samples showed many microorganisms that are very difficult for the animal to fight. All this gave grounds to the Investigative Committee to initiate a case under the article “cruel treatment of animals.”
Save marine mammals
It was with this slogan that people took to the streets of Khabarovsk. A picket was organized against the “whale prison”. The activists came out with posters and went to the building of the Investigative Committee. So they expressed their civil position in relation to mammals: their illegal capture, cruelty to them, as well as selling them to China for entertainment purposes.
World practice very clearly shows that keeping animals in captivity is not the most reasonable solution. So, in the USA, for example, there is now an active struggle to ban the keeping of killer whales in captivity: in the state of California, a law is already under consideration prohibiting the exploitation of killer whales as circus animals. New York State has already passed this law. In India and a number of other countries, keeping killer whales, beluga whales, dolphins and cetaceans has also been banned. There they are equated with independent individuals.
Mammals began to disappear from the enclosures. Three white whales and one killer whale disappeared. Now there are 87 and 11 of them, respectively – which complicates the investigative process. According to the members of the For the Freedom of Killer Whales and Beluga Whales, it is impossible to escape from the “whale prison”: the enclosures are under constant surveillance, hung with nets and cameras. Hovhannes Targulyan, an expert at the Greenpeace research department, comments on this as follows: “The youngest and weakest animals, those that should feed on their mother’s milk, have disappeared. Most likely they died.” Even once in open waters, missing individuals without support are doomed to death.
In order not to wait for the rest of the animals to die, Greenpeace suggested releasing them, but doing it carefully and carefully, only after treatment and rehabilitation. The protracted investigation and efficient departmental red tape hinder this process. They do not allow animals to be returned to their natural habitat.
On World Whale Day, the Russian branch of Greenpeace announced that it was ready to organize heating of enclosures in the “whale prison” at its own expense in order to preserve the life and health of killer whales until they are released. However, the Marine Mammal Council warns that “the longer the animals are there, the more they become accustomed to humans”, the more difficult it will be for them to get stronger and live on their own.
What is the outcome?
World and Russian scientific experience tells us that killer whales and beluga whales are highly organized. They are able to endure stress and pain. They know how to maintain family ties. It is clear why these animals are included in the list of species of aquatic biological resources, for which the limit of the allowable catch is set annually.
However, what happens is what happens. Small killer whales are caught without permission, without permission they try to sell abroad. To solve this problem, it is necessary to involve as many people as possible. Russian President Vladimir Putin has already instructed “to work out the issues and, if necessary, ensure that changes are made to the legislation in terms of determining the characteristics of the extraction and use of marine mammals and establishing requirements for their maintenance.” By March 1, this issue is promised to be resolved. Will they keep their promises or start the process over again? We just have to watch…