Russia announces the release of the last belugas locked in basins


These marine mammals have been piling up since summer 2018 in basins in the Russian Far East. They had to be sold at aquatic theme parks.

Their situation provoked international indignation. Russia announced on Sunday, February 10, the release of the last belugas held for more than a year in tight ponds and intended to be sold abroad.

The Russian authorities had been forced to react after the February broadcast of photographs of these 11 orcas and 93 beluga whales piled up since the previous summer in small swimming pools near the Nakhodka port on the Pacific Ocean owned by private contractors. The last remaining orcas had already been released in August.

Russia is the only country in the world that allows the capture and sale of orcas and belugas to aquaria, a controversial practice made possible by legal loopholes that the authorities have promised to correct. Most of the beluga and killer whales piled up in Nakhodka were destined for water parks in China.

"In the region of Primorye, the operation of liberation of marine mammals in their natural habitat has been completed"said in a statement the Russian Institute of Oceanography, stating that the operation had started five days ago. According to the Russian organization Sakhakin Watch, which campaigned for this release, 21 whales in total were released Sunday by two ships.

Liberation began around 9:00 am (local time) and continued until 5:00 pm However, the NGO regretted being forced by the coastguard to leave the bay where the mammals were released. A petition on the website claiming that these animals were released had collected more than 1.5 million signatures, including celebrities such as American actor Leonardo DiCaprio.

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