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Operation to release two whales begins in Russia’s Srednyaya Bay

90 beluga whales and 11 orcas caught for sale to China have been kept in Srednyaya Bay in the Primorsky Region

VLADIVOSTOK, June 20. /TASS/. Specialists of the Russian Research Institute of Fisheries and Oceanography (VNIRO) on Thursday started an operation to release two orcas from the rehabilitation center in the Srednyaya Bay in Russia’s Far East, a source familiar with the process told TASS.

"This is a VNIRO operation. Today, two orcas were taken away. Possibly, they will be brought to the sea mammals base in the village of Innokentyevka in the Khabarovsk region, from where they will be released to the Bay of Sakhalin. Their transportation to the base will take approximately two days," the source said.

The institute’s press service declined to comment on the information, saying that it would release some official information about its work in the Primorye region soon.

Ninety beluga whales and 11 orcas caught for sale to China have been kept in Srednyaya Bay in the Primorsky Region, but three beluga whales and one orca later got lost. According to investigators, the animals were caught with violations, and a criminal case was launched based on this fact.

On May 31, the Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk City Court partially satisfied the motion filed by local public organizations against the Federal Agency for Fishery, recognizing the ministry’s order on the basis of which permissions for capture were issued as illegal. However, no decision to release the mammals was made, as the court did not support the charges of inaction brought by the animal rights activists against the Federal Supervisory Natural Resources Management Service. Both the plaintiffs and the Federal Agency for Fishery are going to appeal the court’s ruling.

On Tuesday, French oceanographer Jean-Michel Cousteau submitted a question about the fate of the animals to the hotline of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s annual question-and-answer session. He asked the Russian leader to make the final decision about the release of those animals and their return to natural habitat.