Beluga whales from Srednyaya Bay keep active in coastal waters

Beluga whales from Srednyaya Bay keep active in coastal waters

17 May 2020

Beluga whales released from Srednyaya Bay in the Primorye Territory are keeping active in coastal waters, the press service of the Russian Federal Research Institute of Fisheries and Oceanography (VNIRO) reports.


“Satellite monitoring of the released beluga whales shows that most of them stayed in the coastal waters of the Primorye Territory during the winter, while others went north, as far as the Terneysky District, but later returned to Vostok Bay. Most of the released beluga whales spread out along the southern Primorye coast: groups of 4-8 whales can regularly be seen in Uspeniya Bay, Nakhodka Bay, Vostok Bay, Ussuri Bay, Amur Bay and even Posyet Bay. All observations show that the animals keep active, hunt in the coastal area and look quite well-nourished. Unlike their wild relatives, these whales are not afraid of people or ships, but still they do not beg or eat the fish which soft-hearted people sometimes throw overboard,” the report reads.


Before the beluga whales were released, experts expected that the ample food supply in the Primorye Territory would allow the whales to make it through the winter successfully.


Indeed, the young beluga whales released in Uspeniya Bay of the Lazovsky State Nature Reserve in November fared well in the winter, formed pods headed by older whales and learned to hunt in the coastal area.


The scientists specified that during the summer and early autumn the whales stayed in Shantarsky Bay in the northwest of the Sea of Okhotsk, cruising around their traditional summer hunting grounds like Academy Bay, Tugur Bay and the Uda Gulf.


“The female whales showed more migration activity than the males. Two of the six released females went to the open part of the Sea of Okhotsk to the northeast of Sakhalin Island for one or two weeks, roamed there near the halibut fishery, and then returned to Shantarsky Bay to their tagged relatives,” the scientists say.


 The beluga whales released in the Sakhalin Gulf and the Strait of Tartary in the summer and autumn of 2019 stayed in the area where they were released until autumn, and in December they moved to the northern part of the Sea of Okhotsk to the Magadan Region coast, which is their traditional gathering place in winter.


However, the scientists point out that some whales were released in the Sea of Japan near the Lazovsky Nature Reserve in November 2019. This is not a traditional habitat for beluga whales, so there was a big risk that the animals would not be able to winter successfully. However, the whales spread out along the Primorye coastal waters and stayed there. Fishermen, local residents and environmental agency volunteers often see them.


The VNIRO scientists said that satellite tags had been put on 11 orca whales and the 10 largest beluga whales earlier.