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Loading last beluga whales for ‘ride to freedom’ to be completed on Saturday

The loading of the beluga whales started Tuesday morning but was suspended due to violent winds

MOSCOW, November 6. /TASS/. The operation to load the remaining 50 beluga whales from Srednyaya Bay in the Primorsky Region to vessels that will take them to their release point will be wrapped up on Saturday, the press service of Russia’s Research Institute for Fisheries and Oceanography (VNIRO) told TASS.

"Work will continue tomorrow [on Thursday.] There are plans to complete the loading of the animals within two days," the report says.

The loading of the beluga whales started Tuesday morning, when six animals were delivered to the Professor Kaganovsky vessel. However, the efforts were suspended before sunset due to violent winds and worsening weather on Tuesday. Thirteen more beluga whales were taken to the vessel on Wednesday.

Currently, there are 19 beluga whales on board the Professor Kaganovsky. Water was changed for the mammals that had arrived earlier and the same procedure will be repeated on Thursday. Scientific experts are monitoring the whales round the clock.

Whale of a saga

Ninety beluga whales and 11 orcas caught for sale to China had been kept in the Primorsky Region’s Srednyaya Bay, since the summer of 2018, but later three beluga whales and one orca got lost. According to investigators, during the whales’ capture, violations were detected and a criminal case on the illegal seizure of bioresources was launched.

In June, the gradual transportation of the marine mammals to the north of the Khabarovsk Region began for their release into the wild in groups. The first batch, consisting of two orcas and six beluga whales, was released into the sea on June 27. Three orcas were set free on July 16, and three more animals on August 6. The most recent group of orcas and six beluga whales were let go on August 27.

A meeting of scientists from Russia’s Research Institute for Fisheries and Oceanography (VNIRO) decided on October 24 to free the remaining 50 beluga whales into a bay near the Lazovsky Nature Reserve due to approaching seasonal storms, not into the Sea of Okhotsk as had been initially planned.