A spy whale suspected of being trained in Russia off the coast of Sweden


May 30, 2023 | 8:18 a.m

You never know who is watching the whales.

A beluga whale, a suspected spy trained by the Russian navy, appeared off the coast of Sweden Sunday, officials tracking the creature’s movement reported Monday.

The supposed spy grew famous after he was discovered wearing a man-made harness off the coast of Norway in 2019 and spent more than three years slowly moving up the Norwegian coast.

Recently, the great white whale has been gaining speed, moving from the Norwegian coast to Sweden.

Locals called the whale Hvaldemir, a cheeky reference to the Norwegian word for whale, Hval, and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The large fish was spotted in Hunnebostrand, off the southwestern coast of Sweden, on Sunday, according to marine biologists with OneWhale, an organization that tracks its movement.

A beluga whale suspected of being a spy trained by the Russian navy appeared off the coast of Sweden this weekend.
NTB Scanpix/Norwegian Directorat/AFP via Getty Images

Scientists said the whale quickly moved away from its natural habitat.
Jurgen Ree Weg / Director of Norwegian Fisheries

“We don’t know why it’s accelerating so fast right now,” said OneWhale marine biologist Sebastian Strand.

The alleged waterworker’s current route is puzzling to scientists because it is moving “very quickly away from its natural environment,” according to France Press agency.

“It could be hormones driving him to find a mate. Or it could be loneliness, because beluga whales are a very social species — it could be searching for other beluga whales,” Strand added.

According to Strand, the sea creature is believed to be around 13 or 14 years old, which is an age when its hormones are most high.

While Hvaldemir’s health has appeared to be “very good” in recent years, the OneWhale scientists are concerned about his ability to find food in Sweden and note that he has already lost some weight.

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Scientists believe Hvaldemir has not seen another beluga whale since he arrived in Norway in April 2019.

The earliest group of beluga whales lives in the Svalbard archipelago, between the northern coast of Norway and the North Pole.

Pisces is believed to be 13 or 14 years old.
Jurgen Ry Weg / Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries

When Hvaldemir was first seen in the Norwegian Arctic, marine biologists removed a man-made belt from it.

The strap featured a mount suitable for an action camera and the words “St. Petersburg Gear” were printed on the plastic clips.

Officials said the beluga whale may have escaped from its enclosure after being trained by the Russian navy since it appeared to be accustomed to humans.

Last week, Norwegian officials urged residents to be wary of the whale as it could be a Russian spy.

When the whale was first seen in the Norwegian Arctic, marine biologists removed a man-made belt from it.
Jurgen Ry Weg / Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries

Frank Back-Jensen, the Norwegian Directorate for Fisheries, said on Wednesday that although Hvaldemir is “tame and used to being around people,” residents should still avoid contact with the large mammal.

“We particularly encourage people on boats to keep a good distance to avoid the whale being injured or, at worst, killed by the boat traffic,” Buck-Jensen said.

The aquatic mammals “suffered minor injuries, primarily from contact with boats,” the agency said in a statement, and “the risk of injury to a whale due to human contact has become much greater.”

“We have always reported that the whale in question is a free-living animal and we see no reason to capture it and put it behind barriers,” Buck-Jensen said, noting that the animal will continue to be monitored.

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Officials urged local residents to avoid contact with the whale, primarily to avoid injury to the massive creature.
Jurgen Ry Weg / Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries

Russian officials did not comment on the Norwegian speculation that Hvaldemir might be a Russian spy.

Beluga whales can reach 20 feet in length and live anywhere from 40 to 60 years.

They generally live in icy waters near Greenland, northern Norway and Russia.

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