Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Georgia Aquarium denied permission to import 18 beluga whales from Russia

NOAA Fisheries denies application to import 18 beluga whales for public display

August 2013. Following a public outcry, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have announced that it has denied the Georgia Aquarium's request for a permit to import 18 beluga whales from Russia for public display in the United States. NOAA Fisheries based the decision on requirements of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA).

"The Georgia Aquarium clearly worked hard to follow the required process and submit a thorough application, and we appreciate their patience and cooperation as we carefully considered this case," said Sam Rauch, acting assistant NOAA administrator for NOAA Fisheries. "However, under the strict criteria of the law, we were unable to determine if the import of these belugas, combined with the active capture operation in Russia and other human activities, would have an adverse impact on this stock of wild beluga whales."

After careful review, NOAA Fisheries concluded that the application did not meet several of the MMPA permit criteria. NOAA Fisheries denied the permit application because:
NOAA Fisheries is unable to determine whether or not the proposed importation, by itself or in combination with other activities, would have a significant adverse impact on the Sakhalin-Amur beluga whale stock, the population that these whales are taken from;
NOAA Fisheries determined that the requested import will likely result in the taking of marine mammals beyond those authorized by the permit;
NOAA Fisheries determined that five of the beluga whales proposed for import, estimated to be approximately 1½ years old at the time of capture, were potentially still nursing and not yet independent. 
The Aquarium sought to import the whales from Utrish Marine Mammal Research Station on Russia's Black Sea Coast for public display at its own facility in Atlanta and at partner facilities, including SeaWorld of Florida, SeaWorld of Texas, SeaWorld of California and Shedd Aquarium in Chicago.

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