‘Release is best solution’: Explorer Cousteau wants to save orcas & belugas from ‘whale jail’

‘Release is best solution’: Explorer Cousteau wants to save orcas & belugas from ‘whale jail’
French ocean explorer Jean-Michel Cousteau has accepted an invitation from the Russian authorities to visit the “whale jail” and help return captive orcas and belugas to the wild.

Jean-Michel Cousteau, who is the son of ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau, stressed that “the best solution for the orcas and belugas is their release into the wild, not a life in captivity in an aquarium.”

“I hope to visit Srednyaya Bay… to examine the condition of orcas and belugas and to help the Russian authorities to rehabilitate and release them,” he wrote in a letter to the governor of Primorsky Region in the Russian Far East, where the animals are currently held. Cousteau also called for prompt action amid media reports that their health has deteriorated recently.

Currently, 87 belugas, 11 orcas, and five baby walruses are awaiting rescue from tiny enclosures on Russia’s Pacific coast. After learning about their inhumane conditions, the authorities launched a criminal probe against the operators of the “prison,” the Center for the Adaptation of Marine Mammals.

The investigation left the aquatic animals in a bureaucratic trap, as Russian law only allows the capture of whales for cultural and educational purposes, but does not explicitly prohibit them from being sold. When the case stalled, President Vladimir Putin ordered immediate action to resolve the issue by March 1.

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Though the case was not resolved by then, the authorities made some progress by deciding to resettle them to the sea mammal center in Russia’s Far East until experts decide on their fate.

Meanwhile, two whaling companies wrote an appeal to President Putin, stating that the whales were legally captured and their release could result in multi-million-dollar lawsuits from foreign buyers.

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