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Moving in the wrong direction: new application would bring belugas to US marine parks


Earlier this year, WDC celebrated the passage of a landmark law to ban whale and dolphin captivity in Canada.  But we’re already faced with a new battle to make sure this law is upheld, and that it truly moves us closer to ending captivity worldwide.

Take Action!

You can help oppose Mystic Aquarium’s application and speak up to protect these belugas.  NMFS is accepting public comment on this application until December 2nd.  Let them know that you oppose this application because:

  • It is not in the best interest of these belugas.

  • The research could be conducted in Canada, without the stress of transport.

  • It is illegal under both Canada and U.S. law – public display and captive breeding is now illegal in Canada, and the MMPA does not allow the import of whales from depleted populations.

Please Remember to be respectful and polite in your comments - they're entered into public record!

Thank you for being a voice for these belugas, and for helping us create a world where every whale and dolphin is safe and free.

Beluga whale

The law has already been tested, with Canada’s Marineland granted permission to export two belugas to an aquarium in Spain, despite the recent ban on imports and exports in Canada.  The law makes exceptions for welfare or for conducting scientific research – seemingly good intentions from Canada, but these exemptions could open dangerous loopholes in the new law.

Now, it’s the U.S.’ turn – Connecticut’s Mystic Aquarium has requested to import five belugas from Marineland, for the stated purpose of scientific research.  However, the whales would also be on public display, may be subject to breeding, or moved to other facilities.  The application states that while Mystic does not intend to breed the whales, they won’t prevent “natural” breeding, and it even includes plans for any calves that are born during the research project.  This directly contradicts Canada’s new law, which explicitly prohibits captive breeding.

WDC strongly opposes this proposal to move these belugas into the U.S.  This permit must be denied.  This request puts the lives of these belugas at risk, sets a dangerous precedent for importing whales descended from at-risk wild populations under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), and will only increase the number of captive-held belugas in the U.S. – a step in the wrong direction at a time when the public is strongly supporting the end of captivity, marine parks are moving to phase out whale and dolphin breeding and public display, and travel companies are no longer selling tickets to captive facilities.

Transport can be very stressful, and a move from Marineland to Mystic may not be the last journey for these whales, all young individuals.  Mystic’s application includes reference to a partnership between Mystic and the Georgia Aquarium for the project, the belugas, and any potential calves, but does not provide detailed information about how involved Georgia Aquarium will be, or the chances of further moves between the two facilities.  Additionally, trade between facilities only encourages further wild captures around the world, and any captive breeding sadly increases the number of captive-held individuals.

In 2015, WDC and our partners won the fight to prevent the import of 18 wild-caught belugas from Russia into the U.S.  Now, we’re working with many of the same partners to oppose this import request as well.  Sadly, the belugas who would be imported from Canada are descended from the same at-risk population of Russian belugas.  The Sakhalin-Amur community is considered “depleted” under the MMPA, and attempting to import the offspring of these wild-caught belugas raises questions about the legality of the request.  In another twist, the hugely controversial Russian “whale jail,” which brought international attention to the ongoing capture of orcas and belugas in Russian waters, originally held 90 belugas from this same population.

WDC is asking the National Marine Fisheries Service to deny this permit, and with your help, we can stop this attempt to bring captive-held belugas into the U.S.  The research proposed could be conducted at Marineland without the stress of transport or the uncertain future for these belugas – or better yet, at a sanctuary where the belugas can live in more natural settings.

What can you do?

Help fight for whale and dolphin freedom from captivity.

Make a donation

Every year, hundreds of thousands of tourists visit facilities holding whales and dolphins in captivity. Support our campaign to persuade the travel industry to change its ways and to stop promoting these establishments. Thomas Cook have already removed SeaWorld. Who will be next?

Creating sanctuaries

There are more than 3,000 whales, dolphins and porpoises held in tanks. If we want an end to captivity, we need to find somewhere for them to go. Find out more about our ground-breaking work to create the first beluga whale sanctuary in Iceland.