YUZHNO-SAKHALINSK, May 27. /TASS/. The immediate release of the beluga and killer whales kept in Srednyaya Bay, Primorsky Region, may cause the death of the marine mammals, representative for four capturing companies Vadim Govorov said at a session of Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk City Court on the claim filed by the Sakhalin public organizations Sakhalin Environmental Watch, Ocean Friends and Boomerang, that demand that the marine mammals be released.
On May 23, Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk City Court started hearings on the claim of the Sakhalin animal protection organizations against the Federal Agency for Fishery, the Ministry of Agriculture and the Federal Service for Supervision of Natural Resource Management on the release of the killer and beluga whales from Srednyaya Bay. Apart from them, interested entities are involved in the case - the capturing companies White Whale, Afalina, Far East’s Oceanarium and Sochi Dolphinarium, as well as the Border Directorate of the Russian Federal Security Service for the Primorsky Region. The plaintiffs demand that the actions of the Federal Service for Supervision of Natural Resource Management be recognized as illegal and the animals be confiscated from the commercial companies and released to the wild. They also ask to recognize as illegal some orders issued by the Russian Ministry of Agriculture and the Federal Agency for Fishery on the acceptable capture volume for orcas and beluga whales in 2018, the distribution of quotas for their capture and the approval of fishery plans for cultural and educational purposes. At the April 19 preliminary session the court removed the Ministry of Agriculture from the defendants’ list.
"According to the information provided by the Khabarovsk Region Investigative Directorate, it was found that, regarding the marine mammal specialists’ opinion, it is impossible to study the issue of the animals’ immediate release, as chances of their survival are low," Govorov said. He explained that the animals had got used to life in captivity and feeding by hand.
The norms of the animals’ detention correspond to all requirements of the Russian legislation, he said. The orcas and beluga whales always have clean water, the necessary space for movement and healthy food.
The Sakhalin animal protection organizations earlier noted that the whales’ rehabilitation program recommended by the scientists is not being carried out. Afalina’s press service explained these violations by the peculiarities of the animals’ behavior and said that the preparations are currently underway to build a new holding facility for them.
Initially, there were 90 beluga whales and 11 orcas caught for sale to China kept in the Srednyaya Bay, but three beluga whales and one orca later got lost. According to the investigators, there were violations in the animals’ capture, and a criminal case was launched on the illegal capture of bioresources.
On February 22, President Vladimir Putin ordered the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment and the Ministry of Agriculture to determine the future of these animals in cooperation with scientific organizations. The Russian Presidential Administration’s Control Directorate took the issue of the cetaceans’ release under special control. In mid-May the Primorsky Region’s authorities stated that the animals may be released in two months.