The position of Coalition on the release of belugas in the Uspeniya bay

Walrus jail: about the walruses in the Srednyaya Bay

The position of Coalition on the release of belugas in the Uspeniya bay

November 13, 2019

The situation among the activists became a bit heated, some of them are very worried that belugas were not supposed to be released in the Sea of Japan in Uspeniya bay, and claim that it was necessary, despite the complete lack of time and unsuitable weather conditions, to release belugas in the Gulf of Sakhalin.

We respect everyone’s opinions and concerns, so we answer the most pressing questions in detail.

First of all – leaving 50 (!) belugas in the Srednyaya bay until November was the worst and most dangerous decision, and we didn’t make that decision. Therefore, the release in Uspeniya Bay remained the only possible option in these conditions. The coalition did not support this, but all other alternatives were much worse.

The late release in Uspeniya bay was caused by the inaction of VNIRO/TINRO, as well as the stubborn opposition to the release of whales by the captors , who until the last moment had hoped to sell 50 beluga whales to China. The coalition was able to find and publish information about these plans. We sent appeals to law enforcement agencies and with your help we managed to block it, but the time was lost.

VNIRO and TINRO could have used their vessels earlier if they wanted to release all belugas in warm, calm weather. We demanded to speed up the release of animals from the “whale jail” many times with the help of ships, and in the beginning we even managed to get the support of the Pacific Fleet Command, but VNIRO reacted too late and this opportunity was missed.

If the decision to release belugas in Uspeniya bay was made in the summer time, we would have protested it. But by the end of October only that option remained.

Another option was to leave the belugas in the “whale jail” for the winter, which could have led to their death, as the captors are already bankrupt, and they have no reason to feed the animals all winter. Selling belugas to China is also a guarantee of death, only later. We are against these options!

The option to transport the belugas to the Sakhalin Bay of the Sea of Okhotsk was the right one, but at the end of October this option, unfortunately, was no longer suitable.

Even in the second half of October it was already very dangerous because of the storms, and the release of 11 belugas proved it. Then the Zodiac loaded them on October 18, and for five days the vessel regularly experienced a strong rocking – and this is very harmful for the beluga whales. In case of strong shaking and rocking, beluga whales hit the walls of transportation contain and can damage their eyes (this is a typical problem in any transportation). In past years, there have been examples of beluga whales being sold to China with blindness due to careless transportation.

Our coalition has several Sakhalin organizations that have been working in the Sea of Okhotsk for many years and are well aware of its conditions. Therefore, it was clear to us from the very beginning that from the end of October in the Gulf of Sakhalin belugas will be waiting not only for storms, but also for negative temperatures. Wild belugas will most likely not be there – usually by mid-October they go to the north of the Sea of Okhotsk, to Magadan.

Low temperatures, of course, are no problem for belugas, but only when they are at sea. A few days without moving in containers is a completely different situation. And in order to let belugas out into the sea, they need to be lifted out of the containers. At minus 5-10 Celsius with a strong wind – it threatens with frostbite.

A representative of the Coalition, Dmitry Lisitsyn, was on the shore of the Sea of Okhotsk on November 10, when the last release was due to end, approximately 500 km from the South Sakhalin Gulf – and there was already frost – minus 15 C.

If 50 beluga whales were transported to the sea of Okhotsk and survived the long and dangerous transport with probable damage and frostbite, then they would be released where there are no more wild beluga whales or suitable food left. In fact, by mid-October, belugas are leaving Sakhalin Bay for the north for a reason. Experts warned that in October there would be not enough fish there.

At the same time, scientific publications and observations of local residents show that beluga whales are regularly observed in the Sea of Japan off the coast of Primorye. The food supply here is quite diverse and is unlikely to be inferior to that of Sakhalin Bay at this time of year.

Will all 50 belugas survive? Nobody knows this today. And nobody can’t know, because there is little or no scientific information necessary for such assessments. That’s why none of the real cetacean specialists have given any assessments so far. And all theoretical inferences on this matter have no practical grounds. There have been very few cases of belugas release/ escape to freedom, and there have been even fewer scientific studies on their survival, but not a single case of belugas death has also been recorded. On the other hand, there are examples when belugas survived even in the most unsuitable conditions after their release from captivity, including in the Black Sea and the south of Primorye. And this gives us hope.

We are all tired of this year of constant struggle – both whales and people. Let’s not waste our energy on fighting each other! We have a lot of work ahead of us:
⠀-6 walruses waiting for our help in the walrus jail – we’re working on it – wait for the new update!
⠀-We have to ban the captures in Russia!
⠀-Organize monitoring in the Uspeniya bay and be ready