A group of over 100 Beluga whales are trapped under a large polar ice floe in Russia’s Far East northern region of Chukotka.
"A group of over 100 Beluga whales are cut off from the sea and are prisoners of ice floes in the Bering Sea," the Chukotka region said in a statement on its website, adding local governor Roman Kopin had already requested the assistance of an ice-breaker.
It stated that the whales were trapped about 10 miles of the shore of the small village of Yanrakynot, which is located on the Bering Sea.
The statement went on to say that Kopin had written a letter, to Transport Minister Igor Levitin as well as Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu, requesting expedited help because the whales are in serious danger, "given the lack of food and the speed at which the water is freezing, all the animals are threatened with exhaustion and death," according to the statement.
The Chukotka government said that the Russian ice-breaking tug, Rubin, was just 2 days sail time away and could bring help to the whales.
The Beluga whale is a protected species in Russia. They are found in the Arctic waters north of the Russian Far East as well as in the White Sea and Barents Sea in the northwest of Russia. The whales can grow up to 18 feet and weigh as much as 2 tons. They can also stay submerged for up to half an hour.
The beluga’s habitat is being eroded due to the practices of the oil industry, global warming and hunting, according to ecologists.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature had listed the whale on the “near threatened” list in 2008.
Russian Prime Minister and nature lover Vladimir Putin has been a leader in protecting endangered species such as the polar bear, snow leopard and Beluga. Putin even has a page on his website that is dedicated to the whales: http://premier.gov.ru/patron/beluha/