Self-Motivation
David Goggins
Former Navy Seal
Career Development
Bryan Cranston
Actor
Critical Thinking
Liv Boeree
International Poker Champion
Emotional Intelligence
Amaryllis Fox
Former CIA Clandestine Operative
Management
Chris Hadfield
Retired Canadian Astronaut & Author
Learn
from the world's big
thinkers
Start Learning

Russian reporters discover 101 'tortured' whales jammed in offshore pens

Protected animals are feared to be headed for the black market.

Russian reporters discover 101 'tortured' whales jammed in offshore pens
(WWF)
  • Russian news network discovers 101 black-market whales.
  • Orcas and belugas are seen crammed into tiny pens.
  • Marine parks continue to create a high-price demand for illegal captures.

It's like a scene from a Hollywood thriller: Armed guards hired by some shady organization keeping watch dockside over ill-gotten goods. Except, in this case, the goods are alive. About 100 orca and beluga whales jammed into pens of offshore netting for sale to far-off zoos. It's far from clear that this is legal, and the government is investigating, having been alerted to the operation along the coast of Nakhodka by Russian news organization VL.ru.

(Google/Big Think)

Close quarters

Overhead video shows just how little room to move the leviathans have been given in their pens in Srednyaya Bay. Some have been there since July.

This giant group of whales — 11 orcas and 90 belugas — are reportedly believed to have been captured by LLC Oceanarium DV, LLC Afalina, LLC Bely Kit and LLC Sochi Dolphinarium. According to VL, these four firms dominate an illegal export market for marine animals. The four companies appear to be largely unregulated.

These whales are believed to be for sale to one of China's 60 marine parks and aquariums, with a dozen more venues reportedly under construction. With an individual orca said to be going for about $6 million on the black market, there's money to be made in supplying all of these attractions, in China and elsewhere. There are thought to be at least 71 orcas currently in captivity — 166 orcas have been captured since 1961, and 129 of them have died since. SeaWorld still has 21 orcas; 48 have previously died at their parks.

Greenpeace Russia coordinator Oganes Targulyan tells The Telegraph, "Catching them at this tempo, we risk losing our entire orca population." According to the organization, it is "torture" to keep such animals in enclosures such as the ones near Nakhodka.

Orcas and Beluga under threat

Orca and belugas in aquariums. Photo credit: Daleen Loest / Handcraft Films / Shutterstock

In the summer of 2018, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service highlighted the growing scarcity of orcas off the western U.S. coast. One population of killer whales there, Southern Residents, has hit a 30-year low, with just 75 individuals left. No calves have been born in the last three years, as opposed to the historical rate of 4–5 calves each year. Experts suspect both a reduction in Chinook salmon stocks, which the orcas consume, as well as the toxic chemicals the fish ingest.

Belugas are listed by the World Wildlife Federation as "near endangered." Their habitats are under pressure from climate change, Arctic warming, oil and gas development, and human noise. According to NOAA, their population has declined by almost 75 percent since 1979, down to an estimated 328 individuals.

Whales can only be captured legally for a set of specific scientific, educational, and cultural purposes. While there is a limit to the number of orcas a fishing entity can catch per year, Targulyan says, "The capture quota now is 13 animals a year, but no one is taking into account that at least one orca is killed for every one that is caught."

Investigation

As the Russian authorities look into the captive whales, observers worry about the manner in which they're being treated while in Nakhodka. It's indisputable that the orcas and belugas are being held in areas far too small for them to move around in comfortably.

In any event, policing the capture of whales can be difficult. With marine parks still popular in many places, says another Greenpeace spokesperson to RIA News, "Under the guise of enlightenment and culture, dirty business is conducted on rare orcas." One can argue that seeing these whales up close in captivity has an educational benefit that can lead to more benign policies toward these amazing creatures.

It's incontrovertible, though, that the life led by captive whales is brutally diminished, and often cruelly difficult and short. To cause a whale to suffer for our own purposes, whatever they are, seems arrogant and ultimately indefensible. These intelligent creatures are worthy of respect: Their brains are larger than ours, and their dominion — the oceans — far greater.

The operation in Nakhodka reminds us that there remain black marketeers in the world intent on profiting from animals on the edge of extinction that the rest of us are trying desperately to protect. As a species, we still have a way to go in learning how to live in our world without destroying everything, and everyone, else in it.

Take your career to the next level by raising your EQ

Emotional intelligence is a skill sought by many employers. Here's how to raise yours.

Gear
  • Daniel Goleman's 1995 book Emotional Intelligence catapulted the term into widespread use in the business world.
  • One study found that EQ (emotional intelligence) is the top predictor of performance and accounts for 58% of success across all job types.
  • EQ has been found to increase annual pay by around $29,000 and be present in 90% of top performers.
Keep reading Show less

Google’s Sycamore beats top supercomputer to achieve ‘quantum supremacy’

The achievement is an important milestone in quantum computing, Google's scientists said.

Google
Technology & Innovation
  • Sycamore is a quantum computer that Google has spent years developing.
  • Like traditional computers, quantum computers produce binary code, but they do so while utilizing unique phenomena of quantum mechanics.
  • It will likely be years before quantum computing has applications in everyday technology, but the recent achievement is an important proof of concept.
Keep reading Show less

Face mask study reveals worst material for blocking COVID-19

A study published Friday tested how well 14 commonly available face masks blocked the emission of respiratory droplets as people were speaking.

Fischer et al.
Coronavirus
  • The study tested the efficacy of popular types of face masks, including N95 respirators, bandanas, cotton-polypropylene masks, gaiters, and others.
  • The results showed that N95 respirators were most effective, while wearing a neck fleece (aka gaiter) actually produced more respiratory droplets than wearing no mask at all.
  • Certain types of homemade masks seem to be effective at blocking the spread of COVID-19.
Keep reading Show less

You want to stop child abuse? Here's how you can actually help.

Sharing QAnon disinformation is harming the children devotees purport to help.

Photo: Atjanan Charoensiri / Shutterstock
Politics & Current Affairs
  • The conspiracy theory, QAnon, is doing more harm than good in the battle to end child trafficking.
  • Foster youth expert, Regan Williams, says there are 25-29k missing children every year, not 800k, as marketed by QAnon.
  • Real ways to help abused children include donating to nonprofits, taking educational workshops, and becoming a foster parent.
Keep reading Show less
Strange Maps

Here’s a map of Mars with as much water as Earth

A 71% wet Mars would have two major land masses and one giant 'Medimartian Sea.'

Scroll down to load more…
Quantcast