A group of Norwegian fishermen was left with more questions than answers after repeatedly being approached by a whale they believed to be a Russian spy.
While fishing off the coast of Ingoya — a small Norwegian village — last week, Joar Hesten told a local television station that a large white beluga whale swam up to his crew’s boat, wearing a harness around its body.
The whale had been following the boat for some time, tugging on loose straps hanging from the ship.
“It came over to us, and as it approached, we saw that it had some sort of harness on it,” Hesten told broadcaster NRK, the New York Post reported.
Attached to the harness was a GoPro camera mount with a label, tracking it to St. Petersburg, the New York Post reported.
The harness was later removed by one of the fishermen and shown to a Russian scientist, who explained it was not equipment scientist would use, prompting concern the whale is a spy, BBC reported.
Russia has a naval base in the area where the fishermen were when the whale approached their boat, according to BBC.
Marine biologist Professor Audun Rikardsen told BBC the harness “was attached really tight around its head, in front of its pectoral find and it had clips.”
There was no camera.
“A Russian colleague said they don’t do such experiments, but she knows the navy has caught belugas for some years and trained them — most likely it’s related to that,” Rikardsen explained to BBC.
RELATED VIDEO: Beluga Whale Sprays Kid
Martin Biuw of the Institute of Marine Research in Norway also spoke on the discovery saying, “If this whale comes from Russia — and there is great reason to believe it — then it is not Russian scientist, but rather the navy that has done this,” the New York Post reported.
The Russian navy has since denied that the whale was being used to spy on anyone, explaining in a statement to a Russian broadcaster, “We have military dolphins for combat roles, we don’t cover that up,” BBC reported.
“If we were using this animal for spying do you really think we’d attach a mobile number with the message ‘please call this number?'”
The use of marine animals for military purposes isn’t new.
Since 1959, the U.S. Navy has trained bottlenose dolphins and California sea lions “to detect, locate, mark and recover objects in harbors, coastal areas, and at depth in the open sea” under the U.S. Navy Marine Mammal Program.