White whales and orcas from Srednyaya Bay doing well in transit before release in Sea of Okhotsk

White whales and orcas from Srednyaya Bay doing well in transit before release in Sea of Okhotsk

24 June 2019

White whales and orcas from Srednyaya Bay, which are currently being transported in water tanks to the coast of the Khabarovsk Territory for release, are doing well in transit, said Alexei Smorodov, press secretary of the Russian Research Institute of Fisheries and Oceanography (VNIRO), in an interview to the media.


On 21 June, the first group of two orcas and six white whales were transported from the Primorye Territory to Khabarovsk in lorries. There, the water tanks were loaded into a boat that will take the mammals to the coast of the Sea of Okhotsk via the Amur River on 24 June.


“The water tanks are covered with sun protection roofs,” Smorodov said. “The white whales are enjoying their baths while the orcas are communicating with each other by sounds, since their tanks are side by side. All the mammals are breathing calmly, which means that their anxiety from being transported and loaded into the boat has faded. In general, it is a routine situation.”


It may take the mammals from two to ten days to adapt to the release site, said Kirill Kolonchin, director of VNIRO.


“The adaptation process might take up to ten days, maybe two or three, as we expect them to reach the state when they can be released,” Kolonchin said. “That is when our experts will come to tag the whales. They will take a blood sample from each whale and then release them. For three months, experts will continue monitoring the mammals via satellites to track their migratory routes.”


The operation to release the mammals will conclude by October 2019, VNIRO stated.


Nine orcas and 81 white whales remain in Srednyaya Bay. One orca and three white whales went missing from their cages; the ecologists did not rule out the possibility of their death. The companies that captured the whales were fined for violating the rules of fisheries. The court found that the companies illegally captured the mammals, with violations for using the wrong fishing gear, vessels and equipment for transporting orcas, for capturing them in the wrong place, and for not having a veterinarian present onboard.