VNIRO intends to release 50 belugas from Whale Jail by 1st of November

11 more beluga whales were released today
Jean Michael Cousteau asked Russian government to conduct thorough monitoring of 50 belugas

VNIRO intends to release 50 belugas from Whale Jail by 1st of November

October 25, 2019

On Thursday meeting of the Working Group on the release plans of marine mammals from the Whale Jail in Srednyaya Bay took place.

The Secretary of the Council, VNIRO Deputy Director Vyacheslav Bizikov, said that the Russian government had set a hard target – all 50 belugas still remaining in the Whale Jail should be released before November 1, 2019.

To accomplish this task, VNIRO can involve two research vessels – the Zodiac and Professor Kaganovsky, which can take on board 14 and 36 belugas, respectively. The release of all animals is planned to be carried out by two vessels simultaneously, but this time not in the Sea of ​​Okhotsk, which is native to belugas.

Due to difficult weather conditions (autumn storms), lack of funding and the need to ensure the safety of people and animals in the stormy sea, VNIRO and its Pacific branch of TINRO offered to release the remaining belugas in the south of Primorsky Krai, in the bay of the Uspeniya (Lazovsky district), near the state Lazovsky reserve.

Other options were discussed, however, the participants in the meeting concluded that with the existing time limits and funding, this is the only acceptable option. With present weather conditions along the route of vessels in the areas of the alleged capture of beluga whales it would be extremely difficult.

From Srednyaya Bay to Uspeniya Bay no more than 100 km of the sea transport. TINRO experts at a meeting of the Council said that although the Sea of ​​Japan is not a natural habitat for beluga whales, there is now a good forage base in this area and released animals will have enough opportunities to feed themselves.

The Free Russian Whales coalition welcomes and supports the decision of the Council to release all 50 belugas in the shortest possible time, given the imminent cessation of the navigation season and the impossibility of further release in this case.

But we must express our concern over the fact that beluga whales will be released in an unusual habitat for them. This concern was shared by scientists participating in the Council.

According to Olga Shpak, one of the leading cetacean experts in Russia, there is little chance that released beluga whales will be able to go from the southern part of Primorsky region to the Sakhalin Gulf and reunite with the their native population before the beginning of the autumn migration of wild belugas to the north. Given that this is the only option currently available, we hope for the best and that the release will be successful.

The coalition also want to bring attention to the fact that in this part of the Sea of ​​Japan where the release is planned, a big environmental problem is now becoming very serious: hundreds of North Korean vessels are poaching fish and seafood in the economic zone and territorial waters of Russia. Will the Border Service of the FSB of Russia be able to protect belugas from being caught by illegal North Korean fishermen?