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Dead sperm whale in The Wash, East Anglia, England. © CSIP-ZSL.

What have dead whales ever done for us?

When dead whales wash up on dry land they provide a vital food source for...
Risso's dolphin © Andy Knight

We’re getting to know Risso’s dolphins in Scotland so we can protect them

Citizen scientists in Scotland are helping us better understand Risso's dolphins by sending us their...
Pilot whales pooing © Christopher Swann

Talking crap and carcasses to protect our planet

We know we need to save the whale to save the world because they are...
Fin whales are targeted by Icelandic whalers

Speaking truth to power – my week giving whales a voice

The International Whaling Commission (IWC) meeting is where governments come together to make decisions about whaling...

Why do whales and dolphins strand on beaches?

People often ask me 'why' whales and dolphins do one thing or another.  I'm a...
A spinner dolphin leaping © Andrew Sutton/Eco2

Head in a spin – my incredible spinner dolphin encounter

Sri Lanka is home to at least 30 species of whales and dolphins, from the...
Sperm whale (physeter macrocephalus) Gulf of California. The tail of a sperm whale.

To protect whales, we must stop ignoring the high seas

Almost two-thirds of the ocean, or 95% of the habitable space on Earth, are sloshing...
WDC team at UN Ocean conference

Give the ocean a chance – our message from the UN Ocean Conference

I'm looking out over the River Tejo in Lisbon, Portugal, reflecting on the astounding resilience...

Russian orca capture activities moving into high gear — but are captors acting without permits?

The sordid details are now emerging of further orca capture activities in the Russian Far East southwestern Okhotsk Sea. The two orcas captured in mid-July, and reported here earlier, have been shipped to China. And now we have learned that two more orcas were captured in the Okhotsk Sea in late July.

The legality of all four of these captures is in question as the capture quotas for 2014, for 10 more orca captures, were only issued in August, according to Order RPN 4 August 2014 from the Russian Federal Fisheries Agency. After quotas are issued, there would ordinarily be a logistical delay of several days to weeks before permits could be applied for and granted by the local fisheries board.

Yet whether legal or not, this is disheartening news: These orcas quotas are being awarded and the captures are being conducted without essential population studies, against the advice of many orca researchers, and in the face of condemnation by an increasing number of people around the world opposed to splitting up whale and dolphin families in the wild and putting individuals on display for human amusement.

WDC respectfully asks the fisheries inspectors and permit-granting fisheries boards in Russia to provide a factual account of the orcas taken, making public the essential biological information: Size and composition of capture pod; number, sex and size of whales taken or killed during capture; location and day of capture; identification photographs of all marked dorsal fins in the pod for identification and monitoring in future. However, even before obtaining such basic information, fisheries inspectors might well check whether a valid permit is even in place.

We can only hope some of this gets sorted out on 22nd September, at the 8th Marine Mammals of Holarctic International Conference, in St. Petersburg, Russia, when there will be a three-hour roundtable to discuss the issue of whale and dolphin captures in Russia.