Officials in Russia announce the release of nearly 100 whales currently being held in what amounts to a whale jail in Srednyaya Bay. A few months ago, a drone discovered the whale pens in the bay, which held over 90 belugas and 11 killer whales captive.

Environmentalists believe the whales were captured using illegal means and were slated to be sold to amusement parks and aquariums in China.

Related: Plastic pollution is causing reproductive problems for ocean wildlife

Earlier this month, the governor of the region, Jean-Michel Cousteau, signed an agreement to release all of the whales. But before any of the whales are released, scientists will evaluate their health and determine the logistics of re-introducing them to the wild. Until they are returned to their homes, Cousteau revealed that a team of experts will place them in more suitable habitats.

“We also expect that a rehabilitation center will be created for those animals that are injured in wild nature and that need to be rehabilitated,” Cousteau shared.

The whales would have already been released if it had not been for the winter cold. In fact, if they had released the whales a few months ago, there is a high chance that many of them would have perished. Given the conditions of the pens and how the whales were captured, it will take quite some time before many of them are returned to their homes.

Fortunately, Cousteau promised that each of the whales will be returned to the same location where they were captured. Scientists hope that this will help the whales reconnect with their pods and family members. The journey won’t be easy, but at least most of the whales will be getting a second chance.

Sadly, a few of the whales are in very poor health. In fact, environmentalists are worried that some of the whales who have been reported missing actually died. In light of the international outcry, Russia has charged all four companies involved in the whale jail with violating the 1982 law against that prohibits commercial whaling.

Via Mongabay News

Image via skeeze