After the trauma of the capture process, the belugas and orcas are taken to a facility in Srednyaya Bay, near Nakhodka, Russia, where they’re kept in tiny holding pens until the traders secure buyers, and it’s time for them to be moved to China.
“The holding pens … are not very large — I’d say no more than 30 to 40 feet on a side, and probably only about 10 to 20 feet deep,” Rose said. “If they stay there through the winter, ice can form on the top of the water and they have to break through to breathe.”
It’s actually illegal in Russia to capture and sell cetaceans for commercial purposes, but the individuals and companies orchestrating this trade have found a loophole — they claim to be trading the animals for educational purposes only, which enables them to get the appropriate trade permits from the CITES Management Authority in Russia, Rose explained. It’s also not entirely clear who is driving or prohibiting from this trade.