Lofoten – June 7, 2021 – Hvaldimir, the Beluga whale suspected of being a Russian spy, is facing his most dangerous mission yet: trying to survive in the wild. The white whale made headlines when he was spotted by Norwegian fishermen in April of 2019, an unusual sight since Belugas are found much further north in the Arctic. Even stranger was the harness he was wearing and his affection for human interaction.
A rescue operation freed the great sea mammal of the apparatus, which bore the stamp Equipment St. Petersburg, giving rise to the theory that he had been part of a Russian research operation. Named Hvaldimir after the Norwegian word for whale (hval) and the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, the whale quickly became a celebrity. Unfortunately, this newfound fame prompted an unregulated tourism industry to grow around him, while his presence at salmon farms is unwelcome due to the stress he causes the fish and problems for the workers. His proximity to humans has resulted in two serious injuries, most recently from a boat propeller, highlighting the daily dangers in the busy waterways for him.
OneWhale is a non-profit organization created to find a safe home for the young whale who has captured the hearts of millions around the world. Together with the community of Hammerfest, they are conducting possibility studies to create the world’s first marine sanctuary in Norway. Hvaldimir needs an area that is at least two kilometres long and one kilometre wide to have enough space to live his best whale life. This must be a place where people can see Hvaldimir on his terms, and not on human terms as it is now.
Regina Crosby, the founder of OneWhale, explains, “At this point nearly everyone can see why Hvaldimir is in need of protection, so the question is now, where and how can we help him? We spoke to countless people, however the folks in Hammerfest acted swiftly and stepped up to take responsibility. This is really meaningful to me because when I came to Hammerfest to film Hvaldimir for the first time, I also filmed the people in the community, who poured out love for him. And now two years later, when Hvaldimir really needs them, Hammerfest is there for him. Their love is real.”
Katrine Næss, the project leader for the possibility study and Destination Developer at Visit Hammerfest, reflects, “I was lucky enough to meet Hvaldimir when he was staying in Hammerfest in 2019, and I remember how the city embraced him as a new citizen. The prior major in Hammerfest is even his godfather! Looking into the possibility to bring him back ‘home’ and provide him – and possibly other arctic marine mammals – protection is very exciting, especially for the local small scale tourism industry.”
Ric O’Barry, a world renowned expert on formerly captive whales and dolphins, traveled to Norway to assess Hvaldimir’s situation and he determined that a sanctuary is currently the best solution for him. “These propellers are his biggest danger,” notes O’Barry. “Norway can do this, and do it with class like everything else they do.”
OneWhale is a non-profit organization founded by filmmaker Regina Crosby, featuring supporters from across Norway and the world who are working to find a safe home for Hvaldimir. The organization’s only mission is to create the world’s first Marine Sanctuary of minimum two by one kilometres, providing a safe habitat not only for Hvaldirmir but for other rescued Beluga whales that are in need of a natural environment after a lifetime of living in aquariums and amusement parks. OneWhale has provided funding to the project, and continues to raise funds via donations to make the Norwegian Marine Sanctuary a reality.
Find out more at https://www.onewhale.org/
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