Russian officials charge owners of 'whale prison'
CGTN
00:46

Russian officials have brought charges against four companies in the Far East that have been keeping about 100 whales in small, crowded pools, which environmentalists have dubbed a "whale prison."

The companies, which appear to be affiliated, have previously been fined for illegal capture and have a history of selling the animals to amusement parks abroad.

On Thursday, the Border Guards Department said that it suspects that the four companies captured the whales illegally. It also confirmed the environmentalists' claims that the belugas and orcas were kept in cramped conditions in a marine containment facility near Vladivostok and that they need to be released back. However, the border guards did not specify when it will happen.

It appears that the border guards took a cue from President Vladimir Putin who last week ordered authorities to investigate the case and release the animals.

A Greenpeace activist attends a protest against "whale prison", where the white whales and orcas are held in cages in the Russian Far East, in Moscow, February 19, 2019. /VCG Photo

A Greenpeace activist attends a protest against "whale prison", where the white whales and orcas are held in cages in the Russian Far East, in Moscow, February 19, 2019. /VCG Photo

Whales are worth a fortune on the black market, and the activists believe that they were captured for sale to amusements parks abroad. According to Russian law, the capture of whales are only allowed for "scientific" purposes.

Activists raised the alarm late last year when the whales were captured off the Pacific Coast.

90 belugas and 12 orcas were originally reported to have been kept in a marine containment facility in Srednyaya Bay, near Vladivostok, but local prosecutors said on Thursday that three belugas appear to have escaped. Environmentalists also reported the disappearance of one orca earlier in February.

The whales are kept at one location off the Pacific Coast but are owned by four separate companies. However, the records and court filings of the companies indicate that they are connected. 

Source(s): AP