There is something lurking under the waters off Russia’s Pacific coast near the southeastern city of Nakhodka…It is 100 cetaceans that are kept prisoner inside tiny enclosures under the sea.
Included in the marine mammals are 90 beluga whales and 11 orcas. The area where they are being kept is being called a ‘whale jail’ and it is possibly illegal. Worldwide, it is the largest number of marine animals that are kept in this way, according to a UK-based wildlife charity, Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC).
It is not known why these cetaceans are being held in the area but it may be that they are being sold off to ocean theme parks in China. That is big business in that country and they will spend $6 million or more for these marine mammals. There are more than 60 marine parks in China with 12 more being constructed, The Telegraph reported.
It is illegal to buy and sell cetaceans for entertainment purposes but you can buy and sell them for education or science. Even though that international law exists, most who are in this business just ignore it. As an example, the four companies behind holding these cetaceans exported 13 orcas to China from 2013-2016. Other companies simply ‘rent’ the whales, which is a common loophole used in this law.
At this time, prosecutors are attempting to determine if the cetaceans are being used for educational or scientific purposes. That is the claim of the companies, even though they have clearly gone beyond the 13 they had permission to capture. Lawyers are also looking at the conditions where they are being kept, which has been called ‘torture’ by Greenpeace Russia.
Taking a closer look at the enclosure sizes shows that there may be additional illegal activity taking place; holding infant cetaceans. They are not to do that for any purpose. There is concern that this practice is doing more than damaging those animals, it might be affecting the entire species.
“Catching them at this tempo, we risk losing our entire orca population,” Greenpeace Russia research coordinator Oganes Targulyan told The Telegraph.
“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.”