Press releases

"Hear the bowhead whale" press release

Bowhead whales seek protection!

Everyone likes whales. And how can you not love these strong, powerful animals? We imagine them as slow, gigantic ships, cutting through the sea. However, despite their power, these huge creatures are very vulnerable. They are asking for help, and our job is to hear them.

The bowhead or Arctic whale is an inhabitant of Arctic waters who cannot imagine their life without ice. Adults reach a length of 16-20 meters, weigh 100 tonnes and can live up to 150 and sometimes 200 years. The southernmost and smallest population of whales in Russia is the Sea of Okhotsk population. They live farther from the Arctic, spending their entire long life in the Sea of Okhotsk. They live isolated from other populations and do not migrate, so they never leave Russian waters.

The Sea of Okhotsk whale population is included in the Red Book of Russia with the highest priority of urgency and priority of conservation measures, and the International Union for Conservation of Nature has included them in the category of endangered species.

Our region used to be home to over 4,000 bowhead whales, but now that number is down to 300–400. If conservation measures are not taken now, it will be impossible to restore the population of the bowhead whale. And while other animals can be placed in a reserve or otherwise isolated to restore the population, in the case of whales, no zoo can afford the territories to keep them. In addition, whales need communication, because they are social animals. It is impossible to preserve the bowhead whale in captivity, so it is necessary to preserve their natural habitat.

Ruthless whaling over several centuries has nearly wiped out the bowhead whales, and the Sea of Okhotsk whale population has suffered most severely. Because this population has the highest percentage of the fat layer, which means they are slower to swim, shallow to dive, and do not drown when hunting them. Also, these whales have the longest baleen, which also made them desirable prey.

Now that whaling is not as widespread as it used to be and is banned in most countries, we realize that there are other threats to the bowhead whale.

Anthropogenic impacts lead to the degradation of whale habitats. Their lives are affected by pollution in the world's oceans, and the effects of climate change – acidification and rising water temperatures – are further destroying the balance of the ecosystem. Bowhead whales are sensitive to any changes, so they are considered one of the most important indicators of the state of ecosystems.

In addition, fishing nets, uncontrolled tourism and passing ships, which can injure or even kill the whale, pose a serious threat as well.

The goal of the program, implemented by The World Around You Siberian Wellness Foundation, is to preserve the unique Sea of Okhotsk whale population in Russian waters and to develop a long-term program for the protection of bowhead whales.

To fulfill these goals, we aim to raise and allocate 5 million rubles annually to support the bowhead whales.

For the comprehensive whale protection work of the project, we are:

  • Estimating fishing damage.
  • Collecting comprehensive data on individuals for the catalog.
  • Monitoring demographic parameters and threats to the population.
  • Informing tourists about safe whale watching.
  • Creating new rules for the use of watercraft in Wrangel Bay.
  • Monitoring compliance with recommendations.

Full funding of expeditions, availability of consumables that are used by experts, creation of conditions for data analysis and processing are important for successful work. Our financial aid is aimed at providing for these very key issues.

Due to the remoteness of habitats and the small population, these whales are quite poorly studied. But to save the bowhead whales from complete extinction, it is necessary to collect as much data as possible: to understand their habits, behavior, and lifestyle. We have the best specialists in marine mammal research and environmental planning, true expert practitioners who cannot imagine their lives without the work they love.

Pavel Makarov, a reporter and author of a fantastic documentary about whales, also took part in the expedition. After all, it is important not only to study these beautiful animals, but also to talk about them so that as many people as possible can see their beauty, learn about their vulnerability to danger, and hear the call for help!

In July 2022, we supported an expedition to Wrangel Bay for the first time. There we met the whales and the experts who study and conserve them. What we saw did not leave us indifferent. We realized that there are ways to save the population, and they are achievable. Now the bowhead whales in Wrangel Bay are under our custody.

"This is one of the most vulnerable and least studied whale populations in the world, – says Boris Solovyov, Biogeographer, Specialist in Marine Mammal Research and Environmental Planning. – During the last expedition in 2021, we managed to collect a lot of information, but it is not possible to solve such a serious task in a year or two."

Siberian Wellness has been doing charity work since its foundation in 1996. The World Around You Foundation has been working since 2011. We help study and preserve rare species of animals and birds, protect the beauty of natural areas, organize a massive volunteer movement to restore forests around the world, and help people in difficult situations.

Protecting the bowhead whale is a great responsibility for us and a new opportunity to take a meaningful step to preserve an entire population.


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