Russia has started shutting down what environmentalists labeled, a whale jail.
The sea creatures were headed for aquariums but public outcry led President Vladimir Putin to stop it.
CGTN’s Russ Cullen reports.
Two orcas freed from captivity. Swimming out of a transport container and into the open ocean. The start of a plan to release nearly 100 whales held in cramped conditions in a port in Russia’s far east.
Campaigners had called for this to happen, but say it’s been badly managed. The killer whales and belugas were kept in small pens. Destined for a life in aquariums.
International outcry forced a change of heart from authorities. The release was presented as an environmentally conscious decision by the national fisheries agency.
“We think we chose the safest option. The operation was a success despite all the obstacles we faced. There was a storm in the bay where we planned to release the whales,” said Kiril Kolonchin the director of the Russian Research Institute for Fisheries and Oceanology.
The deputy prime minister said the move was a sensible decision taken on the advice of scientists.
Greenpeace says the animals would have suffered from mental stress and physical cramps during the five day journey by road.
Celebrities such as actor Leonardo DiCaprio were among those who signed a petition calling for the animals to be returned to the ocean.
The second batch of whales have now been freed and the whole operation is set to take four months.
Campaigners say they hope the Russian government keeps its promise that in the future catching whales for so-called cultural purposes will not happen again.