MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia on Monday signed an settlement with a gaggle of worldwide scientists to free practically 100 whales which have been held for months in cramped pens in Russia’s Far East, a scandal that has triggered a wave of criticism.
Pictures of the 10 orcas and 87 beluga whales, saved in enclosures in a bay close to the Sea of Japan port of Nakhodka, first appeared after they have been caught final summer season by companies which deliberate to promote them to marine parks or aquariums in China.
Their plight angered animal rights teams and spurred a petition to launch the whales, shared by actor Leonardo DiCaprio on social media, which gathered nearly 1.5 million signatures on-line. Actress Pamela Anderson additionally posted an open letter to Russian President Putin on her web site.
The Kremlin intervened and ordered native authorities to behave, prompting Russia’s FSB safety service to carry prices in opposition to 4 firms for breaking fishing legal guidelines.
However though the Kremlin agreed that the whales have been held in merciless situations, it stated it was tough to launch them into the wild with out harming them.
On Monday, nonetheless, worldwide scientists, together with Jean-Michel Cousteau, son of French marine knowledgeable Jacques Cousteau, signed a joint settlement with Russian scientists, backed by the native authorities, to free the mammals.
Their launch is prone to be phased.
“A choice in precept has been taken to launch all of the animals into the wild,” Oleg Kozhemyako, the governor of Primorsky Area, advised reporters after the signing ceremony.
“Scientists from Cousteau’s workforce and Russian scientists will resolve when and which animals to launch.”
A particular rehabilitation facility for whales could be arrange beneath the settlement, with situations as shut as attainable to their pure setting. Any whales within the Sea of Japan that have been damage or obtained into hassle may very well be handled there, stated Kozhemyako.
Cousteau advised reporters it was a really emotional second for him and the scientists would do all they may to save lots of the animals.
“I do know it’s quite a lot of work, however I’ve little doubt that we’re going to succeed,” stated Cousteau.
The scientists promised they’d devise a plan to launch the whales, a few of which have been captured as way back as July, by subsequent month.
The Kremlin has stated Russia has no direct ban on catching whales, however they will solely legally be caught in particular circumstances, for scientific and academic functions.
Enhancing by Christian Lowe and Giles Elgood