In response to the ongoing threats to beluga populations in Russia, WDC, along with the Animal Welfare Institute, Cetacean Society International, and Earth Island Institute has filed a petition with the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to designate the Sakhalin Bay-Amur River stock of beluga whales in the Sea of Okhotsk as depleted under the US Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA).
Subjected to intense levels of historical hunting, these belugas have yet to recover and face serious ongoing threats, most notably from annual live captures for public display. Around 30 belugas are captured annually to be shipped abroad. At least 320 belugas have been captured for export from Russia between 1990 and 2012. From 2008-2010 there were 63 exported to China alone.
If successful, a depleted designation under the US MMPA for the Sakhalin-Amur beluga whale stock will encourage the United States and foreign governments, conservation organizations, the scientific community, and funding institutions to support research and conservation efforts to help recover these belugas and protect their habitat.
Press release can be found here.