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Infamous ‘whale jail’ now empty

Orca held in Russian 'whale jail'.

Reports from Russia suggest the notorious whale jail in Srednyaya bay in Far East Russia is now, finally, empty of whales. 

The 11 orcas and 87 belugas were initially captured last year for sale to Chinese marine park facilities and were placed into a collection of small sea pens in waters near Nakhodka that became known as a ‘whale jail’.

Following worldwide public criticism from groups including WDC, Russian President, Vladimir Putin intervened and plans were made to return all the surviving whales to the sea. Over the last week, efforts have been made to take the remaining 50 belugas to the wild, with the aim of releasing those left behind before Winter approached and bad weather conditions prevented transport.

Last week, 19 belugas were in the second to last transport returning whales to the wild. Yesterday, the last group of 31, transported in two separate boats by the Russian authorities, were reported returned to the wild, although doubts have been expressed about at least two belugas due to be part of the transport.

Concern surrounds the fate of those returned to the wild without the necessary rehabilitation to ensure their survival. Many were released far from home.

‘Many individuals are very young and, after several months in captivity in pools lacking space, and where they were not adequately cared for, we fear they may not be robust enough to survive. We hope very much to be proved wrong’, says Cathy Williamson, WDC’s anti-captivity lead.

‘The whale jail experiment should never have been allowed to happen and must never be allowed to happen again. We call on the Russian authorities to immediately announce a permanent end to the capture of orcas and belugas in Russian waters and for the species to be given the necessary protection from exploitation to enable them to recover and thrive.’

WDC is working to establish a sanctuary for beluga whales held in captivity – read more.

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