Reports from Russia have just surfaced revealing that eleven orcas and a whopping 90 beluga whales have been captured from the wild this past summer and are now being held in a small secret pen in the harbor of Nakhodka on the East Coast of Russian, waiting to be sold to aquariums in China and likely other places.
Through highly questionable means, a quota of 13 orcas was issued to four companies in Russia, who chased and netted at least 11 orcas for captivity. Both orcas and beluga whales are highly sought after by Chinese aquariums for performing in circus-like shows.
Yet both orcas and beluga whales fare poorly in captivity, often dying at a much higher rate than they do in the wild.
Orcas are only allowed to be captured for the purposes of scientific investigation and educational purposes in Russia, and certainly are not intended to be sold overseas. But Russian laws are vague and enforcement hard to come by.
The eleven captive orcas (we’re calling them the Russian Eleven) were swimming free with their families in Russia’s Sea of Okhotsk this summer. In addition to harm to the individual orcas that will be condemned to a life in captivity, the rest of pod also likely experiences grave stress and mourning over the loss of their pod mates, as well as complicating routines such as hunting cooperation that the pods are dependent on. There is also a question as to whether these orcas are transient feeding on marine mammals (which they cannot do in captivity) or resident orcas dependent on fish.
Russian conservationists filmed the orca captures this past summer, but were threatened with firearms and their camp was vandalized by the orca hunters. Just this week, a prominent Russian animal advocate was knocked down and her camera broken by thugs as she tried to photograph the outside of the holding facility. (Под Находкой ловцы косаток напали на зоозащитницу Нину Зырянову in DV-ROSS)
Also according to news reports, Russian conservationists are working with Russian agencies to investigate and stop the sale of these orcas and beluga whales, as well as stop any future issuance of permits for 2019.