Environmental groups and whale researchers are urging Olympic organizers to condemn the display of two captured killer whales at the Sochi Winter Games in Russia next month.

A Russian company captured seven orcas in the sea of Okhotsk last summer, northeast of Japan, and is preparing to ship two of them to its aquarium in Sochi to cash in on the Olympics.

B.C.-based whale researcher Paul Spong says it's deplorable that the company is doing this, adding it’s not in the Olympic spirit.

“When they're captured, their families are just ripped apart,” says Spong. “And when they're put into captivity, they're really subject to sensory deprivation for years and years and years — it's hugely damaging to them."

Spong and other environmental groups want the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to pressure the captors to release the whales back into the wild.

An online petition asking for the same at Care2 Petitions already has over 93,000 signatories opposed to the Russian action. So far, there has been no response from the Russian government or the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC).

A spokesperson for the COC says it's aware of the issue, but is not yet prepared to make a public statement.

The Games run Feb. 7-23.


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With files from the CBC's Lisa Cordasco