Written by Oxana Fedorova of Save Dolphins/Dolphin Project Russia
On July 30, 2018, the Russian marine welfare organization Ocean Friends, based in Sakhalin Island, left for the first of its kind expedition to perform public control over the capture of orcas.
The purpose of this expedition was to monitor the capture process, identify methods of capturing, collect photo and video materials to expose the cruelty to the public. The captures are currently taking place in the Far East regions of Russia, most in very remote locations. Several days ago the group had its first interaction with fishermen and it wasn’t pretty.
When the fishermen’s ship, JURII SHVEZOV (IMO 8726442), showed up in Nikolaya Bay, the group of activists saw four transportation tanks on board – two of which contained orcas that were recently ripped apart from their families. The activists were not present during capture, but when they attempted to film the orcas with a drone, the fishermen responded with gunfire. Soon activists had to chase the ship that started to go south at a very fast pace. When they mounted a video camera on a pole, fishermen prevented them from filming once again and threatened to use high-powered hoses and firearms if the group attempted to fly the drone again.
Even though Ocean Friends were met with such aggressive behavior, they had no intentions of leaving, intending to put their lives on the line to to document the atrocities of wild orca captures and expose it to the world.
The only video footage ever taken of a Russian orca capture operation was in September 26, 2003 (view below).
(Note: The young female featured in this video was shipped to Utrish Dolphinarium, where she would perish after 28 days in captivity.)
“Russia is the only country in the world that still allows beluga and orca captures for science and education. That’s what they say. I say It’s a lie. I just returned from Chimelong Ocean Kingdom in China. The Russian belugas and orcas are doing stupid dolphin tricks for the paying public, and there’s no education in this.” ~ Ric O’Barry, Founder/Director of Dolphin Project
In the last five years, 15 orcas and more than 200 belugas were captured in Russia and sold to oceanariums in China.
After many years of public outrage and dozens of letters to law enforcement agencies, the General Prosecutor’s Office finally launched an investigation into the illegal capture and sale of killer whales to China. On July 17, 2018, the Prosecutor General’s Office published a report on its official website stating that all investigation materials are being sent to the Investigation Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia. Additionally, the Office announced they would open a criminal case against several organizations who illegally sold seven killer whales to China in the period from 2012-2015.
Despite that investigation, new quotas for 13 orcas and 225 belugas still have been issued for 2018.
This is a developing story. We will post updates when we receive them.