Russia Moves to Free Captured Whales

ELAW partner Natalia Lisitcyna at Sakhalin Environment Watch in Russia, and her colleagues, won a landmark court case last month, ordering the release of nearly 100 orcas and beluga whales captured in the Sea of Okhotsk and held in “whale jail” in Srednyaya Bay, near the far east port city of Nakhodka.
The whales were destined for marine parks in China.
“This is a first court case, for Russia, tied to whale capture,” writes Natalia, whose organization and seven other NGOs launched the winning Free Russian Whales campaign last year. The coalition works to free captured whales and prevent new captures.
The New York Times reports:
“Chinese marine parks pay up to $3.5 million for an orca and around $150,000 for a beluga, according to RIA Novosti, an official Russian news agency. Russia exported 15 killer whales to China between 2013 and 2017, the agency said.
The revelation of the penned whales in Srednyaya Bay prompted an investigation that found that permits to capture the whales had been issued illegally. A criminal case was opened. Among other things, Russian law forbids capturing whales from a group with babies.”
Natalia is pleased with the victory, but says lots of work is ahead:
“We successfully managed to prevent captures in 2019, but in 2020 the Fishery Agency wants to permit catching 10 killer whales and 82 belugas in the Sea of Okhotsk, and another 200 belugas in the Bering, Chukchi and East Siberian seas.”
For more information, please see:

Free Russian Whales

The Guardian: Russia moves to free nearly 100 captive whales after outcry

New York Times: Russia Says It Will Try to Free Almost 100 Whales Held in ‘Jail’

National Geographic: Time running out for orcas, belugas trapped in icy ‘whale jail’

Maggie Keenan
ELAW Communications Director &
Fellows Program Coordinator
Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide