WASHINGTON - (AFP) - A hundred beluga whales that were left trapped under the ice in Chukotka (Russian Far East) in mid-December were able to reach the open sea by a storm that broke the ice, said Friday AFP agency Transport & Shipping.
"Strong winds have caused the formation of a large crack in the ice allowing the beluga to reach the open sea," said a spokesman for the agency, adding that local authorities had indicated that the end of December sending an icebreaker on the scene to save the whales "was no longer necessary."
Mid-December, the authorities in Chukotka had asked the Russian government to send a tug icebreaker to free the whales were in danger of starvation and exhaustion.
This ship could not approach the area where these whales because of the swell and wind too strong in the Bering Sea (opposite Alaska) but bad weather finally allowed to beluga to escape.
The beluga whale or beluga whale is a protected living in the cold waters of the Russian Far East, and in the White Sea and Barents Sea, the dependencies of the Arctic Ocean, northwest of Russia.
The living space of these mammals, which can be up to six feet and weigh two tons, is threatened by the oil industry, climate change and hunting, according to NGOs animals.
Whales are regularly trapped by ice in the Arctic, but rarely in such numbers.
The most famous was in 1988 when three gray whales were trapped by pack ice north of Alaska.
One died of exhaustion, but the other two had been saved after an exceptional mobilization of volunteers and the media, thanks to a US-Soviet cooperation copy at this time of cold war.
These are ice breakers that had come from the USSR finally freed the trapped whales in U.S. waters.