WDC believes that the Georgia Aquarium is actively blocking messages sent by members of the public questioning the Aquarium’s continued attempts to import wild-caught belugas from Russia for its shows.
As part of its ongoing campaign, WDC asked the public to send messages to the Georgia Aquarium requesting that the Aquarium protect belugas in the wild and not import wild-caught individuals for captivity. However, it seems that the Georgia Aquarium blocked 60% of these messages, ignoring over 4,000 of the people who chose to voice their support for a recent US government decision to deny the Aquarium’s permit request to import 18 belugas.
“According to the Georgia Aquarium’s website, their vision is ‘To be the World’s Most Engaging Aquarium Experience!’”, said Courtney Vail, WDC campaign lead, “yet they are actively disengaging the public that wants wild belugas protected.”
In early August, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS ), the US Agency charged with implementing the US Marine Mammal Protection Act, denied a permit application from the Georgia Aquarium to import 18 wild-caught belugas from Russia into the US. The permit denial was based on sound science demonstrating that this population is already under considerable pressure from human impacts and cannot sustain additional whales being removed. However, on September 30th, the Aquarium filed paperwork to legally challenge the decision by NMFS.
While Georgia is working to overturn the decision by NMFS, the need for the importation of wild-caught belugas is not shared by the entire industry. In October 2012, the National Aquarium in Baltimore publicly opposed the beluga permit, and has a policy in place that opposes the collection of wild caught dolphins and whales for any purpose.
“The Georgia Aquarium claims to be a conservation and research organization”, said Vail. “Yet they are ignoring both science and conservation for profit. It’s hard to accept that their motivation is conservation when other aquaria object to this inhumane collection of belugas from the wild.”
Have no fear, WDC won’t let your voice go unheard! We are working with our team to find a way to adapt our petition so that our message cannot be ignored. We also plan to print out a copy of our message to Georgia Aquarium with the names of those who have signed on in support of our call for belugas to be kept wild. Once we compile all the information needed we will publically present Georgia Aquarium with a binder complete with our message and your thoughts and wishes. While they may be able to block emails there is no way for them to silence us!