Prosecutors are investigating whether more than 100 whales crowded into tiny enclosures on Russia’s Pacific Coast are being held illegally.
Eleven Orca and 90 Beluga whales are being held in what local media have dubbed a “whale prison” in a bay near the ctiy of Nakhodka.
It is the largest number of sea creatures to ever be held in small temporary enclosures, independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta reported. Some of them have been there since July.
Activists also allege that the whales are being sold to Chinese aquariums, despite the fact that the animals may only be captured for scientific and educational work following a worldwide moratorium on commercial whale hunting in 1982.
On Monday, local media published a video of a crane lifting a whale into a tank on shore, reporting that the animals were being prepared fort ransport to an unknown destination.
The four companies that are renting the enclosures exported 13 Orcas to China between 2013 and 2016, according to a Novaya Gazeta investigation.
They reportedly received permission to catch 13 Orcas this year. But the Vladivostok conservation prosecutor is checking these documents and looking into whether the Orca and Beluga whales were actually captured for scientific or educational purposes.
It is also appraising as the conditions of their confinement and legaltiy of the tsructures holding them.
An Orca whale can reportedly fetch more than $6 million in the booming ocean theme park indutsry in neighbouring China. There are more than 60 marine parks in China, and at least a dozen more are under contsruction.