The captivity industry’s assault on the world’s cutest whales
Barnum & Belugas
Believing in Belugas
How the Beluga Business Began
My Life with the Belugas
Smart, Chatty and Chirpy – and That’s Their Problem
Visiting with Belugas in the Wild
The Legal and Moral Issues
What You Can Do
Contact Information for the Georgia Aquarium.
Questions for the Georgia Aquarium and the NMFS.
Notes and Talking Points for letters, e-mails, phone calls and general discussion
The Georgia Aquarium has applied for a permit to import 18 beluga whales from Russia into the United States. If it is approved, this will be the first time since 1993 that an aquarium or marine circus has imported animals directly from the wild. It will set a major precedent and return us to a time before public outcry forced the captivity industry to agree to stop capturing marine mammals to put on display.
Today we begin a series of posts about belugas – the gentle white whales of the Arctic.
On June 15th, the Georgia Aquarium quietly filed an application for a permit to import 18 beluga whales from Russia into the United States, to keep some for themselves and to distribute the rest among various other marine zoos around the country.With only 31 belugas being held in captivity at U.S. aquariums and marine circuses, the Georgia Aquarium, along with SeaWorld sea circuses in Orlando, San Antonio and San Diego, plus the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago and Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut are eager and anxious to get their hands on another 18 of these gentle white whales.
In this series on belugas in the American captivity industry, we’ll learn about these gentle, dough-boy-looking creatures and how they fare in the wild and in captivity. We’ll talk with the people who have worked with them closely in both environments.
And we’ll offer some tips on what you can do to protect belugas, who are now listed as a threatened species in North American waters.
First, this is what belugas look like when they’re interacting with humans in the wild:
And this is what they look like when they’re being captured from their families to be put on display at a marine zoo:
The Georgia Aquarium – Reneging on an agreement
If it is approved by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Georgia Aquarium’s application will lead to the first time since 1993 that an aquarium or marine circus has imported animals directly from the wild. This will set a major precedent and will return us to a time before public outcry forced the captivity industry to agree to stop capturing marine mammals to put on display.
So NOAA, which issues the required permits for importing marine mammals, has called for a period of public comment through October 29th. Details are on this page.
Belugas, or white whales, are sweet-natured, gentle and cute-looking mammals. Their natural homes are the oceans of the Arctic and sub-Arctic, where they travel in extended families of hundreds, sometimes up to a thousand, and often under the ice, where their amazing echolocation enables them to seek out pockets of air and holes in the ice so they can come to the surface to breathe.
Some beluga populations in North American waters are listed as endangered, and the marine zoos are leery of the potential for a public relations nightmare if people see video of belugas being captured and taken from their families.
That’s why the Georgia Aquarium arranged to capture these whales from Russian waters, and they are being held at the Utrish Marine Mammal Research Station on the Russian Black Sea coast.
Animal protection groups are working with scientists to persuade NOAA not to issue a permit to the Georgia Aquarium. We hope you’ll join them.