On the orca and beluga capture front in Russia, things have gone from bad to worse in recent months. Four orcas were reported captured this past summer in the Okhotsk Sea, three of them now thought to be in China, and the orca quotas have been reallocated at 10 per year despite all the evidence warning against any quota decision until essential research is carried out.
But there have been some positive developments, too.
The sordid details are now emerging of further orca capture activities in the Russian Far East southwestern Okhotsk Sea. The two orcas captured in mid-July, and reported here earlier, have been shipped to China. And now we have learned that two more orcas were captured in the Okhotsk Sea in late July.
What now for Russian orcas?
Following the news that two orcas were captured in the Okhotsk Sea, Russia, we now have the announcement of the 2014 quota allowing potential captors to apply for permits to catch 10 more orcas. Actually, usually the quota and the permit process happen before the actual captures, but this is Russia.
The Japan Times leads with a report that 'Russia has seized a Japanese research whaling ship in the Sea of Okhotsk on suspicion of intruding into Russian territorial waters, government sources said on Friday.
The 712-ton Shonan Maru No. 2 left Japan on Aug. 8 to examine whales in the Sea of Okhotsk at the request of the government-linked Fisheries Research Agency.
WDC is monitoring with concern reports that Russian armed forces have taken control of Ukrainian military bases holding dolphins.
Recommendations to take 10 more killer whales from the Russian Far East in 2014 were made yesterday, 19 March 2014, by TINRO, the Pacific Research Institute of Fisheries and Oceanography— much to the dismay of scientists who have been studying Russian orcas now for 14 years as part of the Far East Russia Orca Project, supported by WDC.
WDC research fellow, Erich Hoyt has reported today that "No orcas will be exhibited at the Olympics in Sochi". He also reports that "no dolphin will carry the torch, as earlier proposed by the region. Both of these confirmed by the President, Sochi Olympic Committee."
A highlight of this week’s Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals, in Dunedin, New Zealand, was the panel discussion on killer whales in captivity. This was a unique event for the Society. In the wake of the film “Blackfish”, the book Death at Sea World, and the recent live captures of 7 killer whales in Russia, the events of the day seemed to be calling out for a response.
Eight killer whales have been taken from the wild in the Russian Far East in the last year, seven of them since August. They are being held in small pools near Vladivostok and are awaiting their fate. The news, as revealed on the russianorca facebook page run by a group of Russian killer whale researchers, has prompted hundreds of comments, more than 1,600 shares to date, and extensive activity on twitter, blogs and websites. People are clearly upset.