Jean-Michel Cousteau Urges Government of Russian Federation to Reconsider Plan for Release of Orcas held in Srednyaya Bay

Russia to release killer whales in new habitat, despite expert advice
The official position of the Marine Mammals Council on the release of orcas in Srednyaya Bay

Jean-Michel Cousteau Urges Government of Russian Federation to Reconsider Plan for Release of Orcas held in Srednyaya Bay

In the official press releases Cousteau stated that the plan announced on Wednesday May 15, 2019, to release the 10 orcas from the holding facility directly into Srednyaya Bay by late May/early June does not take into account the recommendations of our international team of marine mammal specialists nor does it comply with the optimal release option agreed to by the Working Group of the VNIRO Consilium for adaptation/re-adaptation of orcas and belugas that met on May 14.

“It puts the well-being of these orcas at undue risk and compromises their long-term survival,” Cousteau said. “We cannot support or participate in this plan.”

The most important consideration in the release plan should be the well-being of the orcas and belugas and their long-term survival. The plan must provide for their highest likelihood for successful social reintegration and the highest likelihood of matching the animals with the best habitat for foraging. Returning these orcas and belugas to locations near where they were captured most effectively meets these objectives.

Releasing the orcas in Srednyaya Bay as suggested during a briefing held at the Ministry of Natural Resources on May 15 meets none of these success criteria. And, if done in the short timeline outlined, the plan does not allow sufficient time to re-condition the orcas behavior from captivity for life in the wild.

Cousteau mentioned a number of obvious risks associated with the release in the Srednyaya Bay, including the impossibility of treatment in such a short period of time, the probability of invasive pathogens entering the environment, and the greater likelihood that killer whales will return to Srednyaya Bay for food and will bother fishermen and ships, stealing fish and entangling in the nets, begging for food and / or approaching the boats. Cousteau stressed that if released in Srednyaya orcas may not adapt to the conditions of the open ocean and could die ( More details on statement in attached file below)

Cousteau said his team remains committed to providing expertise and assistance to facilitate a responsible rehabilitation and release program, and to help mobilize international resources should such assistance be needed.

“I believe Russians and people throughout the world will support such a plan,” Cousteau said. “But we cannot support or participate in a release plan that jeopardizes the health, welfare and survivability of these animals.”