About orca capture in Russia

Ministry of Natural resources of Russian Federation received many letters from Russian and Foreign citizens with questions about capture of orca in seas of Russian Federation. The problems of legality, biological arguments, economical expediently and moral aspects of orca capture and keeping them in aquariums touched in these letters.
World history of keeping in captivity killer whales (Orcinus orca) counts nearly half of century. These animals widely using in entertainment industry. Few dozens of orca were kept in 1980-90's In US aquariums. The owners of aquariums derived profit from show with performing orca. In the USA orca were caught for scientific experiments. The main orca captures were near western coast of the USA and the British Columbia. The most numbers of aquariums concentrated also on western coast of country, most economically developed and with high density population. There are 50 orca keeping in aquariums in USA, Japan, France and Canada.
The public movement for orca release arise and developed In the end of XX century in USA. With influence of this movement, orca from some aquariums released in the sea, other aquariums preparing to do it or sale orcas in another countries. Japan very interested for obtaining of orca, because the public of this country have positive attitude for keeping orca in aquariums. Cost of one live orca in world market is about 1 mln $.
In Russia orca were not caught and kept in zoo's and aquariums before, because of absence of suitable conditions and capture experience. There are no specialized aquariums in Russia, but some pools with suitable water capacity. One of them - artificial pool "Spartak" in St.Petersburg, capacity - 3000 cubic meters of water: another - separated Black sea lagoon, near Bol'shoy Utrish cape near Anapa, capacity-30 thousand cubic meters. Suitability of these and other Russian aquariums for orca maintenance never studied specially.
Orca is not included in "Red list" of Russian Federation, but included in Appendix of Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). According to Order#299 of State Committee of Fisheries of Russian Federation, with accordance of Ministry of Nature resources of Russian Federation, orca considered as species for hunting. Permits for capture (killing) will be issued by Goskomrybolovstvo (State Committee of Fisheries), but fishery for orca are not exist during long time, and not scheduled.
Orca - is powerful predator, which behave aggressive with big whales. There are some evidence of orca attacks on gray whales (bitten flippers). With smaller animals orca behave more aggressively, deserve name - "killer whale". With ecological-comparative approach, orca can be considered as marine analog of wolve.
Condition of orca populations in Russian waters don't inspired apprehensions. At least no special censuses for orca in Russian waters, but additional observations, including Japanese scientific vessels, show that animals are ordinary in Bering and Okhotsk sea, and their quantity, at lest few hundreds. By opinion of leading Russian mammologists, some orcas may be removed from nature without damage for populations, that habit near coasts of Eastern Kamchatka, Kuril islands and Northern Sakhalin. Decree of government of the Russian Federation # 1603-p, 14 November 2002, based on results of state ecological investigations, granted 10 orca in 2003 for maintenance of small native nationalities and for scientific and cultural-educational purposes. Cultural-educational purposes means keeping and display in aquariums.
First attempt of capture living orca in Russian waters for scientific and cultural-educational purposes was made in 2002, but all orca escape from nets. In 2003, attempts of capture were made again. According to above-mentioned Decree of Government, Goskomrybolovstvo gave permits for two Russian companies for capture of 10 orca in different regions of Okhotsk and Bering sea. September, 19 2003, ship with expert from Utrish Dolphinarium Ltd and fisheries officer aboard netted a group of orca.
During net removal, main part of group escaped from net, but one orca entangled in deep and died, before it can be released. From captured animal one adult female was selected and others were alive released in the sea.
During first 9 days captured orca kept in floating pan in Avacha bay. After that orca was transported to Black Sea coast and placed in in lagoon near Bol'shoy Utrish cape. During 13 days after arrival, every day orca got fish, pure water. polyvitamins, anti-stress drugs. Laboratory tests of animal's blood were made. Their results shows inflammation in orca organism. In spite of effort of Russian experts and consultation from veterinarians from leading aquariums from USA and Canada, sick animal died. Cause of animal's death was heavy form of pneumonia, which affect animal, probably, before capture. Also orca has morbilivirus infection, which make weaker the organism. Animal suffered also from bacterial infection and from intestinal worms. Organs and tissues of dead orca sent for virusological, microbiological, Hystological and gelmintological examinations in leading scientific centers of Russia. After completion of research, results will be published on Russian and English languages and presented on one of international conferences.
In 2003, December, 9 all circumstances of capture and death of orca were examined on session of Scientific-consultation council for marine mammal Interagency ichtiological commission. Main presentation made by L.M. Mukhametov, chief of Utrish Dolphinarium Ltd. During discussion, some experts, including Fellow the Russian Academy of Science A.V. Yablokov, suggest that number of orca, granted for capture for scientific and cultural-educational purposes will be minimized until capture and maintenance methods will be improved and aquariums will be certified according to international standards.
Representative of Ministry of the natural resources of Russian Federation support this suggestion, proceed from needs of strict keeping of Rules of capture and transportation of cetacean for scientific and cultural-educational purposes, approved by Decree #166 of government of the Russian Federation, from February, 25, 2000.
© 2004, ministry of natural resources of Russian Federation

Oficial response of ministry of natural resources of Russian Federation from Web-site: http://www.mnr.gov.ru/part/?act=more&id=1391&pid=733