The operation to rescue a bowhead whale entangled in nets resumed on August 5 in Primorye. After almost a week of storms, the search party went to the Sea of Okhotsk for the first time to find the animal. Two and a half hours later, the mission was again suspended due to heavy fog, rescuers told Izvestia. A whale in distress was seen by tourists on July 28. The first attempt to free him ended in failure, and then the weather turned bad. The opinions of scientists about the fate of the animal were divided – he could get out of the ropes on his own, or he could die. Is there a chance for a successful rescue of a rare giant, how much more time do people have – Izvestia found out.
The search group on a high-speed catamaran entered the area of the search for the bowhead whale on August 5 at 11:33 am. She headed to the place where the animal was last seen on July 29th. Then the rescuers tried to free the whale from the nets in which it got entangled, but the whale did not let them in. That day, the operation had to be interrupted due to a storm.
On August 5, the weather improved, and the group again went to sea. It included employees of the Far Eastern Interregional Directorate of Rosprirodnadzor, the Severtsov Institute for Ecology and Evolution (IPEE) and the Delfa Marine Mammal Rescue Center. They spent two and a half hours at sea in conditions of variable visibility, Grigory Tsidulko, a scientific consultant at the Delfa Center, told Izvestia.
– Unfortunately, it was not possible to find the whale – after two hours and thirty minutes, a heavy fog covered the search area. It was decided to stop the search and return to the base camp, – explained the interlocutor of Izvestia.
Participants in the whale rescue operation
A marine mammal specialist confirmed that the last time the whale was seen was on Monday, July 29, it disappeared from the visibility zone and has not appeared for a week. What this means – that the animal died or, conversely, was freed and went far into the sea – scientists are now arguing. Their opinions were divided.
Leading Engineer IPEE them. A.N. Severtsov, Deputy Head of the joint program with WWF “Belukha-White Whale” Dmitry Glazov looks at the situation optimistically. He believes that during the seven days that the whale was not seen, he could free himself from the trap that had entangled him and swim away.
“According to the observations of specialists who see these whales regularly, most often they free themselves from such entanglements. The rope is tangled not on the tail and not on the body, but on the jaw and on the mustache, and this is not so critical. In my opinion, most likely, he has already freed himself, the expert suggested.
According to him, this means that now the whale may not be found – it may already be far out to sea. Rescuers have so far searched for him using only a boat, which limits the search area. But, according to Dmitry Glazov, a large vessel left Vladivostok for the search area, after its arrival the chances of finding a whale will increase.
Due to the bad weather prevailing in the Sea of Okhotsk, the ship’s departure was delayed for a day, said Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Director of the IPEE named after V.I. A.N. Severtsova Vyacheslav Rozhnov. He does not believe in an optimistic scenario.
– The fact that on August 5 they did not find him for two and a half hours is a question of what technique was used to search for him, and not evidence that he is free. Bad weather makes it difficult to make the search longer. Plus, whales also react to the weather – he could have gone to another place. I don’t think he freed himself – everything got tangled up there very nicely. As is known from practice, if a marine animal is entangled in fishing gear, getting out is always a problem for him.the expert noted.
If the whale didn’t get free, it’s most likely still alive, Vyacheslav Rozhnov is sure. The chances of this are great, Dmitry Glazov agrees. The rope was not so tangled on his body that he could not swim and eat, which means that some kind of food was most likely entering his body all this time, he says.
But even if not – large whales can go without food for not even a week, but several months: they have enough fat reserves for this. Ten days of forced starvation do not pose a threat to his life. However, it is not a fact that we are talking about exactly ten days – this is only the period when tourists discovered the whale. How long he is actually in such an entangled state, no one knows.
If the sea giant still died, and such a scenario cannot be ruled out, then we will not know about it either, because in this case it will lie deep at the bottom, the expert said.
According to Dmitry Glazov, Friday’s searches were doomed to failure. Since the whale swam freely even with a rope in its mouth, there was no chance of finding it in the same area where it was seen a few days ago.
Photo: TASS/Yuri Smityuk
The sea is big, but you can’t go far in a boat. It was more of a soothing trip,” he says.
Nonetheless rescuers do not lose hope and are ready to go again in search of the poor fellow at the first opportunity.
– The weather forecast here is not very accurate, so we will act on the actual weather, Grigory Tsidulko encouraged Izvestia.
If people persistently search for something, they, as a rule, find it, but in this case, the issue of the changed location of the whale is not the only one, Vyacheslav Rozhnov recalled. Even if the animal is found, the question of how to help it remains open – until now, the whale, tired from stress, has not allowed rescuers to approach it. All attempts ended in nothing – the whale went to the bottom.
Sea of garbage
Cluttering the sea with torn and abandoned fishing gear is a big problem for marine animals. They get entangled in them regularly, said Vyacheslav Rozhnov.
“It’s the man’s fault again. As in the case of the polar bear, which has a jar stuck in its mouth. Then the problem was also not in the animal, but in people – tourists who travel on ships and like to feed polar bears with condensed milk for their own entertainment and do not think about the consequences. Also here, fishermen often throw torn nets and ropes into the sea, although they could pull them out and take them with them. The problem must be solved – all this garbage must be removed from the sea, otherwise such cases will be repeated, the scientist warned.
Photo: TASS/Yuri Smityuk
Abandoned and not utilized nets are one of the main reasons for the poor condition of cetaceans, Vyacheslav Rozhnov emphasized. It is in such a network that the current bowhead whale is most likely entangled, he added. The scientist suggested looking at the trouble that the handsome whale fell into, more broadly – as the problem of human presence in the ocean, because of which animals suffer, including rare ones. These are not only networks that are torn and not taken out, but also “mountains of plastic garbage”, which – again through the fault of people – swim in the ocean and cause irreparable harm to its inhabitants.
This time, attention was paid to the problem, as the bowhead whale, one of the rarest animals on the planet, suffered. There are about 300 of them left, and the death of each is a tragedy and a threat to the survival of the population. But every day a lot of other inhabitants of the seas and oceans suffer from human activity. These stories just go unnoticed.