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A Whale Rubbed Against a Boat. It Wore a Harness

Officials speculate harnessed beluga whale found off Norway escaped from Russian military facility
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 29, 2019 8:43 AM CDT
A beluga whale is seen as it swims next to a fishing boat before Norwegian fishermen removed the tight harness, swimming off the northern Norwegian coast on Friday.   (Joergen Ree Wiig/Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries Sea Surveillance Unit via AP)
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(Newser) – 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 escaped 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, per the AP. On Monday, he said that fishermen in Arctic Norway last week reported the tame white cetacean with a tight harness swimming around. On Friday, fisherman Joar Hesten, who told Norwegian broadcaster NRK that the whale began to rub itself again his boat when he first spotted it, jumped into the frigid water, aided by Ree Wiig, to remove the harness. Ree Wiig said "people in Norway's military have shown great interest" in the harness.

Audun Rikardsen, a marine biology professor at the Arctic University of Norway, believes "it is most likely that [the] 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. Rikardsen said he'd checked with scholars in Russia and Norway and said they haven't reported any program or experiments using beluga whales. "This is a tame animal that is used to (getting) 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 [are] doing fine."

(Read more beluga whale stories.)

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