A beluga whale appeared in Norway in 2019, a tracking organization said on Monday, fueling speculation it was a Russian spy trained in the Russian navy off the coast of Sweden.
The whale was first seen in the Finnmark region of northern Norway, and spent more than three years slowly moving along the upper half of Norway’s coast, before suddenly accelerating these months to cover the second half, then Sweden.
It was seen on Sunday in Honbostrand off the southwest coast of Sweden.
“We don’t know why it’s accelerating so quickly at the moment,” Sebastian Strand, a marine biologist with OneWhale, told AFP, especially since it was moving “very quickly away from its natural habitat.”
“It could be hormones driving him to find a mate. Or it could be loneliness because the beluga is a very social species — maybe he’s been looking out for other beluga whales.”
Strand thinks he’s 13-14 years old and says Pisces is “at an age when his hormones are really high”.
However, the first inhabitants of the belugas are found 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.
The Norwegians called him Hvaldemir – a pun on the Norwegian word for “whale”, hval, and a reference to his alleged connection to Russia.
When it first appeared in the Norwegian Arctic, marine biologists from the Norwegian Fisheries Directorate removed the artificial belts.
The strap had a function-appropriate cam base and the words “St. Petersburg Gear” were printed on the plastic buckles.
Administration officials said Hvaldimir may have escaped from the fence and may have been dragged away by the Russian Navy because he appeared to be accustomed to humans.
Moscow has never issued any official response to the Norwegian speculation that he might 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 bypasses cruises between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
The whale’s health has “appeared very good” in recent years, Strand said, as he searched for wild fish on Norwegian salmon farms.
But his organization was concerned about Hvaldemir’s ability to find food in Sweden and had already noticed some weight loss.
Belugas, which can reach up to six meters (20 feet) in size and live between 40 and 60 years, typically live in the icy waters around Greenland, northern Norway and Russia.