February 1, 2019 Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk
The court process about the release of orcas and belugas from the “whale jail” into the wild of has started in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk.
Sakhalin public organizations – Sakhalin Ecological Watch, Ocean Friends and Boomerang Club have received the order of Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk city court on acceptance for the production of their statement of claim for the release of orcas and beluga whales. Cetaceans are illegally held by four commercial companies in the so-called “adaptation center” in Srednyaya bay near town Nakhodka (Primorsky Krai), better known as the “whale jail”.
The Russian General Prosecutor’s Office has declared more than once that 11 orcas and 90 beluga whales were captured and kept in a “whale jail” with violations of current legislation.
The Russian Investigative Committee started a criminal case under Art. 256 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation with charges on illegal capture of biological resources. The animals are not a material evidence or arrested property at the moment.
Several months have passed since then. Meanwhile three beluga whales disappeared from the “adaptation center” without a trace, and the condition of the orcas deteriorated significantly, one of them is being close to death. There are all legal grounds present for the animals to be confiscated and released to their natural habitat, however, they are not only continued to be illegally held in terrible conditions in captivity, but not a single government agency went to court to demand their release. For all the numerous appeals to all instances, public organizations and activists receive answers in which the question of making decisions about the release of animals from the “whale jail” is carefully avoided.
That is why ecologists desperate to get the practical actions for animals release from relevant government agencies have decided to go to court on their own.
Defendants in a public interest claim are
The Federal Service for Supervision of Use of Natural Resources (Rosprirodnadzor), Russian Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries agency. Interested parties are four commercial companies that caught animals for sale for overseas oceanariums (“Afalina”, “Far East Oceanarium”, “White Whale” and “Sochi Dolphinarium”) and The Primorsky Border Guards of the Federal Security Service of Russia, who organized an independent comprehensive expert assessment of the health status of orcas and beluga whales in January this year.
Claimant demand to condemn the inaction of Rosprirodnadzor as illegal and oblige Rosprirodnadzor to confiscate the orcas and beluga whales from the illegal possession of commercial companies and release them into their natural habitat. They also require to recognize that in 2018 a series of orders of Russian Ministry of Agriculture and Russian Fisheries Agency for issuance of quotas and approval of allocation of resources for cultural and educational purposes were illegal.
Art. 4 of the Federal Law “On Fauna” establishes state ownership of the animal world on the territory of Russia, and Art. 59 requires confiscation of illegally acquired animals and return them to their habitat. The legal system has empowered Rosprirodnadzor in the field of the protection and use of wildlife objects and subjects to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). But Rosprirodnadzor has not used the power to confiscate and free the animals and has been inactive for all this time, that is why this government entity was selected as the defendant.
The court ordered the respondents and interested parties to submit their objections to the statement of claim before the March 7, 2019 after which the date for its consideration will be set.
Additional information on the case:
“Sakhalin Ecological Watch”, Dmitry Lisitsyn cell phone: +7 924 190 1022