The Georgia Aquarium in the US is to seek to overturn a recent US government agency decision preventing the import of 18 wild-caught beluga whales from Russia.
The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), the US federal body that oversees the country’s marine resources refused to grant a permit to the aquarium in August that would have allowed the belugas to be brought in the US for display to the public. WDC strongly supported this decision and we are disappointed that Georgia Aquarium has now chosen to fight against it.
NMFS turned down the permit because of a failure to demonstrate that the import would not have a significant adverse impact on belugas in the wild. In addition, at the time five of the belugas proposed for import were likely still nursing young dependent upon their mothers, a direct violation of the US Marine Mammal Protection Act.
Georgia Aquarium’s decision to challenge this reflects a disregard for the integrity of the Act and the vulnerability of this population of wild belugas. Public opposition to this proposed import was overwhelming and, in combination with the strong science and evidence supporting a negative impact on the future of the affected population that underpinned the agency’s decision, calls into question Georgia Aquarium’s commitment to conservation.