Beluga whale with Russian harness raises alarm in Norway

Russia has no history of using whales for military purposes but had a training program for dolphins

Norwegian fisherman observes a beluga whale swimming below his boat before the Norwegian fishermen were able to removed the tight harness, off the northern Norwegian coast Friday, April 26, 2019. The harness strap which features a mount for an action camera, says “Equipment St. Petersburg” which has prompted speculation that the animal may have escaped from a Russian military facility. (Joergen Ree Wiig/Norwegian Direcorate of Fisheries Sea Surveillance Unit via AP)

A beluga whale found with a tight harness that appeared to be Russian made has raised the alarm of Norwegian officials and prompted speculation that the animal may have come from a Russian military facility.

Joergen Ree Wiig of the Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries says “Equipment St. Petersburg” is written on the harness strap, which features a mount for an action camera.

He said Monday fishermen in Arctic Norway last week reported the tame white cetacean with a tight harness swimming around. On Friday, fisherman Joar Hesten, aided by the Ree Wiig, jumped into the frigid water to remove the harness.

Ree Wiig said “people in Norway’s military have shown great interest” in the harness.

READ MORE: Humpback whale safety campaign launched as population booms on B.C. coast

Audun Rikardsen, a professor at the Department of Arctic and Marine Biology at the Arctic University of Norway in Tromsoe, northern Norway, believes “it is most likely that Russian Navy in Murmansk” is involved. Russia has major military facilities in and around Murmansk on the Kola Peninsula, in the far northwest of Russia.

It wasn’t immediately clear what the mammal was being trained for, or whether it was supposed to be part of any Russian military activity in the region.

Rikardsen said he had checked with scholars in Russia and Norway and said they have not reported any program or experiments using beluga whales.

“This is a tame animal that is used to get food served so that is why it has made contacts with the fishermen,” he said. “The question is now whether it can survive by finding food by itself. We have seen cases where other whales that have been in Russian captivity doing fine.”

Hesten told Norwegian broadcaster NRK that the whale began to rub itself again his boat when he first spotted it.

Russia does not have a history of using whales for military purposes but the Soviet Union had a full-fledged training program for dolphins.

The Soviet Union used a base in Sevastopol on the Crimean peninsula during the Cold War to train the mammals for military purposes such as searching for mines or other objects and planting explosives. The facility in Crimea was closed following the collapse of the Soviet Union, though unnamed reports shortly after the Russian annexation of Crimea indicated that it had reopened.

The Russian Defence Ministry published a public tender in 2016 to purchase five dolphins for a training program. The tender did not explain what tasks the dolphins were supposed to perform, but indicated they were supposed to have good teeth. It was taken offline shortly after publication.

The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Comments are closed

Just Posted

GoFundMe launched for man severely injured in Westside Road crash

Doctors say it could be 12 months before Tyler Sheriff is able to walk again

Lake Country man facing charges after bear mace incident

The 23-year-old man has since been released from police custody

Car drives into Peachland business

One staff member at the business suffered minor injuries

Peachland Farmers’ Market sees good turnout despite challenging times

Unpredictable weather and pandemic concerns aren’t stopping people from enjoying the market

Kelowna cyclist breaks national ‘everesting’ record

Jacob Rubuliak, 17, rode up and down Knox Mountain 38-and-a-half times, the equivalent elevation of Mount Everest

Collision results in train derailment just east of Golden

The derailment occured Sunday night, according to a statement from CP.

Greater Victoria nanny pleads guilty to child porn, sexual interference charges

Johnathon Lee Robichaud pleaded guilty to slew of sex crimes

Victoria man dies after skydiving incident on Vancouver Island

34-year-old had made more than 1,000 jumps

BC Wildfire Service to conduct night vision trials for helicopters in South Okanagan

This technology could assist with future firefighting operations

In photos: Penticton Speedway celebrates opening weekend

Despite having to turn away roughly 700 cars, organizers celebrating a successful weekend of racing

Following incident at sea, fishing lodge says it will reopen despite Haida travel ban

QCL reopens July 10, says president; Haida chief councillor describes ‘dangerous’ boating encounter

Vehicle incident stalls traffic on Highway 1 east of Salmon Arm

Drive BC reports road closed, assessment underway

NHL says 35 players have tested positive for COVID-19 since June 8

Positive rate for the league is just under 6%

Most Read