“Blackfish” has taught many about the detrimental effects of capturing wild orcas and placing them into captivity. Not only does it break up important family units and depletes wild populations, it also, in some cases, causes death during or shortly after capture.
SeaWorld has left this practice behind in favor of artificial insemination to breed captive orcas instead. This, of course, does not make captivity any more acceptable, but at the very least is sparing wild orcas the traumatic pain of familial separation. (However, the better option would be to not keep animals in this type of captivity at all.)
Unfortunately, demand is great for wild orcas, which can net around $1 million, according to Outside Online. The magazine reports that in just the past two months, seven wild orcas have been captured in Russia’s Sea of Okhotsk for marine parks and aquariums.
Two separate operations were conducted in August and October, capturing the whales. They were then taken hundreds of miles to a sea pen near Vladivostok to join a young female captured last year named Narnia, reports Outside Online.
Erich Hoyt has been monitoring orca populations and these capture attempts over the years with the Far East Russia Orca Project (FEROP). Hoyt reports that Russian hunters have been trying to capture wild orcas since 2002, and in 2003 they corralled a total of 30, with one young female dying in the nets and another dying 13 days after transport.
Some of the orcas caught stay in Russia while others are transported out of the country to China.
“It seems like China is becoming, or has become, a primary source of the demand for belugas, dolphins, and orcas alike,” said Courtney Vail, Campaigns and Programs Manager for Whale And Dolphin Conservation, which helps sponsor Hoyt’s and FEROP’s work. “Chinese facilities also source from the Taiji dolphin hunts. Twenty-four dolphins were exported from Japan to China in 2012, and CITES trade reports suggest over 60 wild-caught belugas were exported from Russia to China between 2008 and 2010 alone.”
In order to stop this demand, the main way to take action is by speaking with your wallet. If these types of shows are not supported, demand diminishes as does the profitability of the trade.
“A lot depends on how many people per year pay to get into SeaWorld in the U.S., as well as paying to get into the growing number of such facilities in China, Japan, and Russia,” Hoyt said via Outside Online. “By last count, more than 120 facilities in these countries exhibit whales and/or dolphins. If there is no demand from the owners of these facilities and from the paying public, the selling price will go down and eventually there may be little or no supply offered for sale. Then the orca trafficking can stop.”
Image source: Robert Pittman / Wikimedia Commons