May 24 (UPI) — Norway is urging people and boaters to “avoid contact” with a harness-wearing beluga whale, dubbed the “spy” whale, recently spotted in a fjord near Oslo.
The Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries issued the directive Wednesday over concerns that the whale, which is tame, could be injured.
“So far there have been only minor incidents where the whale has suffered minor injuries, primarily from contact with boats,” Fisheries Director Frank Bakke-Jensen said in a statement.
“We especially encourage people in boats to keep a good distance to avoid the whale being injured or, in the worst case, killed by boat traffic,” Bakke-Jensen added.
The beluga, which is known to follow boats and is a protected species in Norway, was first spotted on the Barents Sea coast in April of 2019. The whale has been seen traveling along the Norwegian coast and staying “at farms where it has been able to catch fish, grazing on surplus feed,” according to the Directorate.
Photos show the whale wearing a harness that, according to fishermen, appears to have mounts for a GoPro camera.
The harness has prompted many theories, including that the whale escaped a Russian naval base in the Murmansk region and had been “trained to spy” on Norway.
A public poll in Norway nicknamed the whale Whaledimir, or Hvaldimir in Norwegian, because it bears a strong resemblance to the Russian name Vladimir.
While a number of organizations have encouraged Norway to capture the whale, the Directorate of Fisheries is rejecting the idea.
“We have always communicated that the whale is a free-living animal and we see no reason to capture it and put it behind barriers,” Bakke-Jensen said Wednesday.
“We will consider different measures, but it is too early to say anything concrete about that yet,” Bakke-Jensen added as the Directorate of Fisheries promised to monitor the whale’s movements.
“We hope it will turn around when it reaches the end of the Oslofjord.”