efe-epaMoscow

Greenpeace organized a protest in Moscow to raise awareness over one of the largest whale jails in the world located in easternmost Russia, the environmental organization told EFE Tuesday.

The NGO laid down an artwork that created an optical illusion of a jumping three-dimensional orca breaking out of a cage to protest that Russian authorities had not addressed the fact that some 100 cetaceans were living in dreadful conditions in the sea of Okhotsk.

The situation in the whale jail located near the Pacific Coast city of Nakhodka remained the same even though President Vladimir Putin last month ordered for solutions to be found, Oganes Targulyan a Russia research coordinator told EFE during the protest.

"A commission has been created to define the fate of the cetaceans, made up of scientists, but the coordination is in charge of the fishery administrators that in essence are the culprits of this problem," Targulyan added.

Conservationists have been warning for months now over the precarious conditions some 87 beluga whales, 11 orcas and five young walruses were held in.

The mammals were caught in the wild to sell on to Chinese aquariums for millions of dollars.

Scientists were denouncing that animals were suffering from hypothermia and various diseases due to the cramped conditions, overcrowding and poor sanitation.

Targulyan said that the jail was propped up by "private companies that in essence were organized armed criminal groups," to which neither the press nor NGOs had access.

The Greenpeace coordinator said that on average an orca in China fetched around $1 million but that aquariums were willing to pay up to $6 or $7 million per whale.

Although there was a consensus the cetaceans should be set free, the process needs to be done adequately, Grigory Tsybulko, marine mammals expert and advisor to Greenpeace told EFE.

"The place where they are now does not have the nutritional conditions for these animals, so releasing them there would be closer to an eviction than liberating them," Tsybulko continued.

"It is necessary to release them correctly, in the right place and at the right time, where they have enough food," the expert added.

According to Tsybulko the best place to release them would be wherever they were captured, although at the moment it is covered in a thick blanket of ice and would be impossible to do so at present.

The process of liberating the mammals is a slow one due to the strong opposition of fishermen keen to keep them in order to sell them in China.

Targulyan was optimistic that the impending visit of celebrity oceanographic explorer Jean-Michel Cousteau might unlock the situation.

fss/ch/sh