A beluga whale allegedly from a Russian military facility has mysteriously appeared on the coast of Norway. While the marine experts hope that it will swim away to where it has come from, it has till the last reports—refused to leave.
“The last days the whale has still been observed in the same area. Hopefully, it will swim away further north in the Arctic where it belongs and join a pod of white whales,” Jorgen Ree Wiig, a marine expert and an inspector for the Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries, said in a statement.
A few fishermen saw the beluga whale and sent pictures to Norway’s Institute of Marine Research. These photos were shared with three inspectors sailing in a Sea Surveillance Service patrol vessel.
“To our surprise, we saw that the whale had a harness around his body clearly put there on purpose,” said Wiig.
The team arrived with its disentangling gear and lured the whale with a cod filet. “The whale was totally habituated to humans and we could touch it,” he said.
The team had to work together to free the whale from the harness. “First we thought that the rope had been ripped apart, but then we saw the most enjoyable thing in the water: The whale was free from the harness. It was a cheerful moment to see the whale going his own way free from the harness as we turned back to our regular assignment,” said Wiig.
He told ABC News that it is very unlikely for the whale to have been trained by the Russian military.
“Maybe [he] was trained to recover things people lose in the sea, as he is always looking for a boat to come close to,” Wiig said.
“We are in discussions with the Norwegian government about options for the beluga. He could just stay here, he could wait for other belugas when they make their summer migration through Norwegian waters and continue on with them [or] he could get transported to a whale sanctuary in Iceland.”
Since being freed from its harness, the whale has moved only 30 nautical miles and Wiig said that they are looking for whatever best suits the young adult’s survival.
Its appearance, however, continues to be a mystery and Martin Biuw, of the Institute of Marine Research in Norway, told ABC News that the whale looks trained.
“One of the videos shows the whale bobbing its head out of the water and opening its mouth. This is a clear sign that the animal is trained, as this behavior is usually associated with begging for food from the trainer,” Biuw said.
There are speculations that the beluga is from a Russian Military facility. Biuw said that both Russian and American militaries had active marine mammal programs earlier but he had no detailed knowledge about it.
“I would assume that harnesses are generally only used for short-term deployments, as they may cause chafing and other discomfort over longer time periods. What I can say for almost certain is that no researchers in Norway, and almost certainly not in Denmark/Greenland, use this method of attachment for any research-related work. Whether scientists in Russia do, I have no idea,” he said.
The Russian military has denied running a sea mammal special operations program, reported the Guardian.
The investigations are done by Norway’s special police security agency (PST) and it has yet not given any conclusions.
The beluga whale is an Arctic and a sub-Arctic species.