Russia fines ‘whale jail’ company White Whale
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A Russian company that runs a so-called “whale jail” in the east of the country has been fined 28.1 million rubles ($433,000; £430,000).
White Whale is one of four firms holding killer and beluga whales in small enclosures on the Sea of Japan, which they say is legal.
But a Vladivostok court on Friday ruled the company broke fishing rules.
Cases against the other three companies are expected before the courts in the next week.
Although Russia allows the capture of whales for scientific purposes, the fear is these animals are bound for theme parks or aquariums in China.
The confined whales have scandalised scientists, politicians and activists at home and abroad.
Environmental groups have demanded the release of the mammals ever since news of the “whale jails” first broke.
About 10 orcas and 90 beluga whales are currently being held at the facility.
The Russian government however seems to be bowing to pressure to end the practice. In February, President Vladimir Putin asked his government to look into the whale enclosures.
Authorities have since said the whales will be released, but it is not clear when.
Environment minister Dmitry Kobylkin this week said they would be freed in July or August, but officials had previously said this would happen in May or June.
Russia fines fishing firm running ‘whale jail’
MOSCOW (AFP) – A Russian court on Friday (June 7) fined a fishing firm for illegally capturing killer whales and keeping them in an overcrowded “jail” in the country’s far east.
The company that supplies sea mammals to aquariums is one of four firms keeping 10 killer whales and 87 Beluga whales in a controversial facility near the port town of Nakhodka.
Media have nicknamed it a “whale jail” due to its crammed pens and the company’s controversial plans to sell the animals to aquariums from nearby China.
A district court in the far eastern city of Vladivostok ruled that the White Whale company violated fishing regulations when it captured three killer whales, also called orcas, and ordered it to pay a fine of 28.1 million roubles (S$590,00), news agencies and activists said.
Local environmental activist Dmitry Lisitsyn, coordinator of Sakhalin Watch group, said he expected similar decisions about the rest of the killer whales and eventually Belugas.
The fate of the Russian orcas and Belugas – highly intelligent and social marine mammals – has scandalised the international community, with scientists and celebrities calling for their release.Laws regarding the capture and keeping of marine mammals in Russia contain multiple loopholes.
The fishing firms have argued they had the proper paperwork and planned to deliver them to aquariums abroad.
The Russian government has promised to release the animals, but is not clear how and when this will be done.
This week, Environment Minister Dmitry Kobylkin said that the animals will be released in “July or August”, though previously officials named May or June.
Russia has for years been the only country where it is legal to capture live killer whales, most of which are the seal-eating variety of the species that scientists say is rare and must be protected.
People increasingly oppose using such sea mammals for entertainment in the West, but in China the industry is booming and many new facilities are under construction.