Beluga whales at sea (note that this is not a photo of the trapped ones).
The Russian ship, the Rubin.

I received a large reader response to my post about the trapped Beluga whales on December 15. Russia’s Ministry of Emergency Situations sent the ship, the Rubin, to break up the ice in the Sinyavinsky Channel to free the 100 whales, but severe weather forced the ship to seek safe harbor, as RIA Novosti reports. The ship sailed to the port of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky in Kamchatka to refuel and will reportedly attempt to resume rescue activities once the weather improves. It’s probably a good idea to wait out the stormy weather in the North Pacific for the sake of the sailors. In the past couple of weeks, to the southwest, around the Sea of Okhotsk, two ships have fallen into distress. Right before Christmas, a Cambodian-flagged ship, the Ginga, sank in the La Perouse Strait just south of Sakhalin. Three people have died in this incident so far. Today, in the Kuril Islands, the Irina, a Russian refrigerator vessel homeported in Vladivostok, broke down with a flooded engine room and punctured hull. High winds and waves made rescue initially difficult, though all 19 sailors were eventually saved. Kolskaya, the oil rig that went down while being towed in December, also sank off Sakhalin, in this case off the island’s east coast.


Map of the Sea of Okhotsk, with Sakhalin, the Kuril Islands, and Kamchatka.

In Russia, a different story about the Beluga whales has captured the headlines, which has not yet been reported in Western outlets, at least to my knowledge. Apparently, hunters in Chukotka have only found 12 beluga whales in the channel, rather than the 100 originally reported. Lubomir Mukha, the head of EMERCOM in Chukotka, stated,

“Numbers of marine mammal hunters and members of the nature-ethnic park, Beringia, say that now in the ice, there are no more than 12 animals in captivity. Only one polynya remains open, whereas previously there were at least five.”

If the hunters are right, that means that up to 88 Beluga whales may have already escaped. This is good news, as the channel is continuing to freeze up. For the 12 whales that remain, there is also good news: scientists at the Chukotka Fishery Research Center think that there is enough food in the channel to sustain the pod of whales until January.

News Links

“Update: Sad News for Trapped Beluga Whales,” Care2

“White whale rescue operation suspended,” UPI

Categories: Environment Russia


Update: Rescue of beluga whales halted, but some may have already escaped

  1. Please find a way to rescue and save them. I am so worried about them. Please keep us updated. Praying for a safe recovery.

  2. Why has nothing more been said about a rescue or the state of the belugas?
    Your article states that maybe as many as 88 have escaped, is this true or are they dead and that is what they want us to believe. Since mid December mum has been the word. Years ago 150 reporters where on site for the rescue of three whales and now its the rescue has been made into a movie . What’s wrong with this picture???????? Where are the people who can help this situation?

  3. Our society is so screwed up! Today we see capitalism and greed at its finest and everything important has a dollar value attached. In 2011, the pay package for Apple Inc’s CEO was $378 MILLION dollars and an ER nurse made $65,000. I admire people like Bill & Melinda Gates who help those less fortunate with part of their fortune. If I had the money or could help to rescue these Beluga whales, I would in a heartbeat. It makes me very sad that no-one came forward to help these beautiful, endangered whales. Shouldn’t we ALL have a moral obligation to help protect the future of our planet?

  4. I have been searching for weeks on this and still can’t find out if they’ve been rescued or if any efforts are underway… My heart just aches not knowing if anything is being done to help rescue these beautiful creatures. ANY update would be much appreciated!

  5. I HOPE this is true. From another site someone posted:

    Good News!!! An article dated January 15, 2012 read as follows,WASHINGTON – (AFP) – A hundred beluga whales that were left trapped under the ice in Chukotka (Russian Far East) in mid-December were able to reach the open sea by a storm that broke the ice, said Friday AFP agency Transport & Shipping.

    “Strong winds have caused the formation of a large crack in the ice allowing the beluga to reach the open sea,” said a spokesman for the agency, adding that local authorities had indicated that the end of December sending an icebreaker on the scene to save the whales “was no longer necessary.”

    Read more:

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