An estimated 11 orcas and up to 90 belugas are currently being held in what’s being dubbed as a ‘whale jail.‘
According to media reports, prosecutors are now investigating a site near the city of Nakhodka, where dozens of orcas and belugas have been confined to small enclosures to determine whether they’re being kept illegally.
According to the Telegraph, which cited local media, it’s the largest number of whales to ever be held in small temporary enclosure, while some of them have been there since July.
Now, an international group of marine scientists are calling on Russia to stop capturing orcas from the wild. Even though permits for capture are only issued for scientific or educational reasons in Russia, activists have raised concerns they’re really being captured for commercial purposes and being sold to marine parks in China for entertainment. Unfortunately, the industry in China is growing, which has increased the demand for them. Capturing orcas is big business – Orcas can reportedly be sold for up to $6 million, while belugas are worth thousands.
Sadly, according to the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI), 13 orca captures will be allowed this year, while the number doesn’t include any who are injured or killed during the process.
In response, 25 marine mammal biologists from around the world are urging the Russian Federal Service for Overseeing Natural Resources to stop captures of wild orcas.
They argue that not only are these captures highly stressful for individuals involved, but they also damage complex social structures and are putting the future survival of orca populations at risk. To see how damaging removing even just a few individuals can be, we just need to look at the Southern Resident Killer Whales who have yet to recover from captures that took place decades ago off the coast of Washington.
“These whales are being captured before Russian authorities complete an environmental assessment to determine whether such actions are sustainable,” said Dr. Naomi Rose, a marine mammal scientist for AWI. “Aside from poor management practice, captures are without a doubt traumatic and harmful to the whales taken and the family members they leave behind. The science is in on this, but Russian authorities are ignoring it.”
We can never undo the injustices that captive orcas and other cetaceans have been subjected to, but we can certainly create a future where we respect them and protect them in their rightful place in the wild. Considering what we’ve learned about cetaceans, it’s heartbreaking to think about the impact this industry has had on them. Putting them in captivity can destroy family bonds, cause premature death or injuries and inflict psychological harm– all for nothing more than our curiosity and amusement.
Unfortunately, this trade won’t stop until public interest is gone and it’s no longer profitable, which makes avoiding facilities that hold them captive critical.
This article was first published by Care2.com on 22 Nov 2018.
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