Whales In Captivity: Russian ‘Whale Jail’ And International Outcry Over It

by | April 7, 2019

Imagine being one of the most majestic mammals on earth, designed to swim across the depths of seemingly infinite ocean, away in the pristine of deep blue waters. But when you had just begun to experience your world, you are caught up in an enclosed space, suffocating with a hundred other occupants, not knowing if there will ever be an end to the torture.

Shuddered at the mere thought of it? This is the reality of 100 juvenile whales caught in a “whale jail.” This “whale jail” is reportedly near Nakhodka, at Srednyaya Bay in Russia, housing 11 orcas (killer whales) and 87 belugas in small enclosures. It is believed that one of the orcas and three belugas, which disappeared from captivity last year, are dead due to the poor health the animals suffer in the enclosures.

Visuals from the Whale Jail shared by Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC)

Caught from the Sea of Okhotsk, these majestic ocean mammals are reportedly to be sold to marine parks in China. Each orca is worth millions of dollars and the belugas can fetch thousands of dollars. Animal tourism, human greed and lack of empathy towards voiceless creatures are to blame for this, in addition to loopholes in existing laws and reluctance of the governments to stop the trade.

Poor condition of whales and their sufferings

The aerial shots of overcrowded ice pens in which the whales are captive depict a grim reality marked with the struggle of juvenile whales to keep themselves warm. They are believed to be showing signs of hypothermia. Though cold waters are their natural habitat, whales in the wild swim across several kilometers each day to keep themselves warm. Swimming to warm their bodies is impossible in these inhumane enclosures. According to Greenpeace Russia, some of the whales have developed skin lesions and are showing signs of flipper deterioration.

Whales In Captivity
Credits: Gary Webber/ Shutterstock
Whales are already facing difficult times: A visual of the stranded pilot whales beached on New Zealand’s South Island 

Is it legal?

Fortunately no, but there are several loopholes. Russia allows capture of whales for educational and scientific research purposes. Last year in July, Russia investigated the illegal sale of seven orcas to China. Marine Parks have turned into a lucrative industry in China, with a steep rise in the numbers as tourist attraction hotbeds.

The latest incident comes as a rude shock after Japan announced last December that hunters can resume commercial whale hunting.

Activism To Save The Whales in Captivity

Animal rights activists and environment groups are protesting against the poor treatment of the marine mammals. Greenpeace Russia raised the alarm last October and a criminal investigation is underway. A team of experts, including French scientist Jean-Michel Cousteau, are set to meet Russian government officials soon and the plan includes a visit to the infamous whale jail.

Whales In Captivity
@freerussianwhales via Instagram

Iconic Baywatch TV star and International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) activist, Pamela Anderson, has urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to intervene and release the whales.

Oscar winner Hollywood actor Leonardo DiCaprio via Twitter

Hollywood star Leonardo DiCaprio has urged his millions of social media followers to sign a petition to save whales. So far, 1.43 million have signed. You can sign the petition here.

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