VLADIVOSTOK, November 14. /TASS/. Fifty beluga whales from Srednyaya Bay that were released this month in the Primorsky Region have migrated across the region’s coast in a 40-km radius from their point of release and are getting used to their new habitat, the press service of Russia’s Research Institute for Fisheries and Oceanography (VNIRO) told TASS on Thursday.
"Regarding the large group of beluga whales set free on November 8-10 into Uspeniya Bay, in the Primorsky Region, we can say that they are currently moving along the Primorsky Region coast in the area of their release. Some of the freed mammals remain in Uspeniya Bay, while the others dispersed along the coastline of the Primorsky Region to the north and south of the points of their release. The tagged beluga whales migrated as far as 40 km away from where they had been released in Uspeniya Bay. Now, we can say that the animals were set free in good physical condition and are vigorously adapting to the wild, using the opportunities for food available in Uspeniya Bay and along the Primorsky Region coastline," the institute’s representative said.
He added that all the marine mammals released before November 2019 have returned to their natural habitat and are staying in the habitat areas of their wild relatives.
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 marine animals on August 6. Another group of orcas and six beluga whales were let go on August 27.
The last batch of beluga whales was released into the Primorsky Region on November 10. On October 24, a council of VNIRO scientists decided 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. The operation to release the marine mammals was held on November 8-10 in several stages.