Mystic Aquarium should not import belugas
Mystic Aquarium wants to import five belugas from Marineland in Canada for research. The whales are offspring of wild-caught whales from a Russian population designated as "depleted," making their import for public display illegal under U.S. law. Mystic has limited space, so the whales will be on display by default.
Three of the whales will belong to Georgia Aquarium, which tried importing 18 wild-caught belugas from Russia for display and breeding. This led to powerful criticism of the attempt to tear these young whales from their families. The facility lost a federal court battle in 2015 because the import would have violated U.S. standards. It is disturbing that Mystic, a well-respected facility, would partner with such an aquarium.
Mystic's precedent-setting proposal seems like a public display dressed as research. The whales could mate and produce offspring being a backdoor to get "new blood" into U.S. captive beluga breeding programs.
It is no longer justifiable for whales to be kept in captivity for purposes of exhibition, and a new Canadian law prohibits display, breeding, import and export of cetaceans. Mystic should help improve life for the belugas at Marineland and conduct any needed research there.
David Kaplan, Esq.
Cetacean Society International