In November of 2018, concerning reports dubbed as “Whale Jails” in Russia, triggered a wave of shock, disgust, and criticism.
Near the Russian city of Nakhodka, there are several small and crowded ice water enclosures, housing more than one hundred beluga and orca whales. Marine mammal specialists have stated these compounds are torturous and dangerous to these whales in captivity. They risk freezing, drowning, and hypothermia.
Reports have been unclear as to the exact reason behind Russia’s “Whale Jails.” However, it is a hypothesis, the cruel and unhealthy enclosures hold the whales captive for sales to aquariums and Chinese buyers. In China, killer whales and belugas are testified to be very valuable. According to a report in the U.K.’s Telegraph, a single orca can reach more than $6 million, and the demand is high. Presently, there is a vast demand for marine theme parks in China, with at least 60 already open and more under construction.
Leonardo DiCaprio, Green Peace and animal rights activists have appealed to the Russian Minister of Ecology, the Governor of Primorsky and head of the Russian Fishery Agency to cancel permits and take action to free these mammals from the “Whale Jail.” As the activists were voicing their concerns and getting petitions signed, at least three whales have died in the ice enclosure. According to Russian law, it is only legal to capture whales for scientific or cultural purposes, so legalities around the facilities are under review.
Tensions continued to increase, and the whales remain caged. As the story propagated, so did the anger across the world. The story was drawing negative attention and mounting rage from international stars, the public, and the Kremlin. President Vladimir Putin personally stepped in and demanded the whales be released. Russia’s federal security service has laid charges against four companies for breaking fishing laws, TASS reported.
Currently, investigations are ongoing, in regards to the proper release of the mammals without harm. The whales are being cared for, and the Kremlin wants to ensure no further damage is done to them. Stricter international laws must be enforced concerning the captivity of whales. It is never acceptable to put any mammal in such atrocious conditions, for the pure entertainment of people. We as humans can do better.
- Newsweek. “Orcas and Belugas inside Russia’s Whale Jail could soon be freed following huge petition” 05 March. 2019. Web. https://www.newsweek.com/orcas-belugas-russia-whale-jail-freed-petition-1352311
- Newsweek. “Russia has a “Whale Jail” where belugas and orcas are held captive in freezing water, Greenpeace offers to help” 02 FEBRUARY. 2019. WEB. https://www.newsweek.com/russia-whale-jail-beluga-orca-killer-whale-greenpeace-1336884
- RTE. “Russia orders release of orcas and belugas in “whale jail” 01 March. 2019. Web. https://www.rte.ie/news/newslens/2019/0301/1033622-whale-jail/