French ocean explorer hopes his experience will help free whales in Russia’s Far East

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VLADIVOSTOK, April 5. /TASS/. French oceanic researcher Jean-Michel Cousteau’s team has arrived in Russia to try to find a solution to releasing and rehabilitating orcas and beluga whales from Srednyaya Bay in Russia’s Far East.

Jean-Michel Cousteau, who is the first son of famous ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau, told reporters on Friday he hopes that his team’s experience will help solve the problem.

“We are working with everyone who is taking decisions across the world, in such places as Mexico and the United States. We are working with people to understand connection with the ocean and these animals. We have come here <...> to provide assistance and find an appropriate solution,” Cousteau told a briefing in Vladivostok.

The explorer noted that he was thankful for an invitation to come to Primorye. “Based on experience, we put a team together and we will go there [Srednyaya Bay.] We will come to work with scientists and observers and those who work directly with the animals and help them,” he noted.

The Whale Sanctuary Project organization reported in late March that Cousteau had received an invitation from Russia’s authorities to join an operation on rescuing and rehabilitating orcas and beluga whales kept in Srednyaya Bay. The explorer is set to visit the center on April 6.

Eleven orcas had been kept for sale to China in the facility in Srednyaya Bay along with 90 beluga whales. However, three beluga whales went missing, and one orca reportedly disappeared. Police are carrying out an investigation. A criminal case has been launched into illegal hunting of these mammals.

On March 11, members of the council of scientists were approved who will be tasked with assessing the condition of these mammals and prepare recommendations for their rehabilitation. Among them will be representatives of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Far Eastern Federal University, the National Scientific Center for Marine Biology and other scientific organizations. The Russian Scientific-Research Institute of Fishery and Oceanography will coordinate its work.

On March 22, the Primorye Region’s administration and members of the Russian Scientific-Research Institute of Fishery and Oceanography as well as representatives of the companies, which hold the whales in captivity, signed an agreement on cooperation to decide on the fate of the mammals and their possible release back into the wild.

Earlier, Russian President Vladimir Putin instructed the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment and the Ministry of Agriculture together with scientific organizations to come up with a solution for the whales.

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