() People should “avoid contact” with a famous beluga whale to avoid accidentally injuring or killing it, the Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries has said.
The whale, nicknamed Hvaldimir, rose to international fame in 2019 after being spotted wearing a special harness with mounts for a camera, leading experts to believe it may have been trained by the Russian military.
Since 2019, he “has been traveling along the Norwegian coast” with a few stops along the way, according to management, adding that Hvaldimir “tends to stay in hatcheries where he has been able to catch fish, overeating on food.”
Hvaldimir is known to follow ships and play with those on board.
The whale, a protected species in Norway, now lives inside the Oslo Fjord, according to the Directorate of Fisheries.
This “means that it has arrived in a very densely populated area, and the risk that the whale could be injured due to human contact is significantly higher,” he added.
In a statement on Wednesday, Fisheries Director Frank Bakke-Jensen said “so far there have only been minor incidents where the whale has suffered minor injuries, mainly from contact with boats.”
But he urged people to keep their distance, “even though the whale is tame and used to being around people.”
“We especially encourage people going by boat to keep a good distance to avoid the whale being injured or, in the worst case, killed by boat traffic,” Bakke-Jensen said.
Given the dangers, Bakke-Jensen was asked if the whale should be taken into captivity.
“We have always communicated that the whale in question is a free-living animal and we see no reason to capture it and put it behind barriers,” he said.
However, now that the whale is “in a more vulnerable zone and access to food may be limited, we will consider different measures,” Bakke-Jensen added. “But it’s still too early to say anything concrete about it.”
The Directorate of Fisheries will monitor the whale’s movements in the hope that it will turn around when it reaches the end of the Oslofjord.
In 2019, experts told that Hvaldimir was a trained animal, and tests suggested it came from Russia.
Jorgen Ree Wiig, a marine biologist with the Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries, told the harness appeared “specially made” and had “GoPro camera mounts on each side of it.”
And the harness clips read “Equipment St. Petersburg,” which contributes to the theory that the whale came from Murmansk, Russia, and had been trained by the Russian navy.
The navy “has been known to train belugas to carry out military operations before,” Wiig said, “like policing naval bases, helping divers, finding lost equipment.”