On August 5, 2013, NOAA denied a permit application by the Georgia Aquarium to import 18 beluga whales to the U.S. from Russia. The Georgia Aquarium is attempting to challenge the ruling with legal action and a letter writing campaign.
Please join us and politely tell the honorable Penny Pritzker that you stand with NOAA on their final ruling on the beluga import permit.
The Georgia Aquarium claims that there are fewer than 35 belugas in accredited aquariums in North America and that this population of animals in human care is facing certain extinction. In fact there are another 43 animals in human care here in North America and with current advances in artificial insemination technology, the Georgia Aquarium has access to innumerable quantities of diverse genetic material. That there is “simply not enough genetic diversity to promote healthy breeding, meaning that within a few decades, according to experts, the public will lose touch with these magnificent mammals” is a falsehood. Georgia Aquarium and others have been studying the Beluga for many years and have exhausted what can be learned from captive animals.
Any further research of value must take place in the Beluga’s natural environments and outside of the constraints of captivity.
Effective conservation, research and education programs are essential to the survival of animals everywhere. To import animals by capturing and separating prime breeding stock from the families of a very social and familial species is irresponsible and inhumane and is unnecessary to ensure healthy populations of animals in aquariums and zoos.
The Georgia Aquarium claims that they need to import more Beluga’s to inspire their guests each year by connecting people with animals they would never have the chance to experience. With the technological resources and information available to all Americans and especially teachers, the days of needing to see an animal first hand is unnecessary. Absconding more Beluga’s from the wild to satisfy redundant educational and research needs is in opposition to the spirit of the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
Denial of the permit does not threaten the sustainability of Beluga whales “not just in aquariums, but globally”, as the Georgia Aquarium claims. What does threaten the global sustainability of Belugas is the continued depletion of their populations in the wild. The removal of a single member from a cetacean social group deeply affects all members of that group, inflicting unnecessary stress.
I urge your agency to stand by the ruling against the Georgia Aquarium’s permit application and deny the appeal they have put forward.
Thank you for your attention to this request.