A Russian “spy” whale spotted Hvaldemir off the coast of Sweden | Politics news

Norwegian officials believe the beluga whale may have been trained by the Russian navy and is accustomed to humans.

A beluga whale appeared in Norway in 2019, an organization tracking its movements said, prompting speculation that it was being trained by the Russian navy because of a man-made harness it was wearing, which turned up off the Swedish coast.

When it first appeared in the Norwegian Arctic in Finnmark, marine biologists from the Norwegian Fisheries Directorate removed an attached strap with a mount suitable for an action camera and the words “St. Petersburg Equipment” printed on the plastic clasps.

Directorate officials said at the time that the whale may have escaped from a fence, and may have been trained by the Russian navy, as it appeared to be accustomed to humans.

The Norwegians called the beluga “hvaldimir”—a play on the Norwegian word for “whale,” hval, and “dimir,” a reference to its alleged connection to Russia.

OneWhale said Monday that Hvaldimir spent more than three years slowly moving down the upper half of the Norwegian coast before suddenly accelerating in recent months to cover the second half and move on to Sweden.

The organization said he was seen on Sunday in Honbostrand off Sweden’s southwestern coast.

“We don’t know why it’s accelerating so quickly right now,” Sebastien Strand, a marine biologist with OneWhale, told AFP, especially since it is moving “very quickly away from its natural environment.”

“It could be hormones driving him to find a mate. Or it could be loneliness, because the beluga is a very social species — it could be that he’s looking out for other beluga whales.” Hvaldemir is believed by Strand to be between 13 and 14 years old, “at an age when his hormones are very high.”

But the closest group of belugas is in the archipelago of Svalbard, in the far north of Norway. The whale is not believed to have seen a single beluga since it arrived in Norway in April 2019.

on its websiteOneWhale says, “Hvaldimir is not a wild whale. It behaves like a lost or abandoned pet. Instead of avoiding people, it looks for them.”

A beluga whale wearing a harness is seen next to a fishing boat off the coast of northern Norway in 2019 [File: Jorgen Ree Wiig/Sea Surveillance Service/NTB Scanpix via Reuters]

Moscow has never issued an official response to the Norwegian speculation that the whale could be a “Russian spy”.

The Barents Sea is a strategic geopolitical area in which the movements of Western and Russian submarines are monitored. It is also the gateway to the Northern Way, which short circuits cruises between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

The whale’s health has “appeared very good” in recent years, Strand said, as he forages for wild fish on Norwegian salmon farms. But his organization was concerned about Hvaldemir’s ability to find food in Sweden, and they’ve already noticed some weight loss.

Beluga whales, which can reach six meters (20 feet) in size and live between 40 and 60 years, generally live in the icy waters around Greenland, northern Norway and Russia.

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