The Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, Georgia has applied for a permit to import 18 wild-caught beluga whales. The whales, taken out of the cold Sea of Okhotsk in Russia, will be kept in tanks at Georgia Aquarium and other aquariums and marine parks across the country.
From sea to tank in the name of “conservation”. The capture of these belugas is intended to improve the genetic diversity of belugas in captivity in the U.S. which would, reportedly, make the beluga population more stable. The captive beluga population that is. The creatures that would never exist in nature – the offspring of Canadian beluga whales mated with Russian beluga whales – to prop up the artificial lives of captive animals.
Georgia Aquarium chief zoological officer William Hurley says there are 34 belugas in U.S. captivity, with 4 of them being under the care of Georgia Aquarium. Many of those animals are past child-bearing age, and only two males have contributed to the artificial insemination efforts carried on throughout the country, Hurley said, adding that importing additional animals will make for a greater success at breeding efforts. Georgia Aquarium’s 17-year-old female beluga, Maris, gave birth in May, but the infant calf died just a few days later. The aquarium is still waiting on reports from the necropsy.
So, basically, the Georgia Aquarium’s breeding program for the beluga whales has gone down the drain, so now they want to import 18 healthy belugas from Russia to the United States in an attempt to restore the reproduction of captive belugas. While the process of capturing whales is dangerous to the animals, not infrequently resulting in their death, importing them can add additional deadly risks to the whale, physically and mentally.
Beluga whales are extremely social cetaceans with very complex family bonds and the removal from their home pod can cause great stress. Evidently the previous failures of breeding are reasons to rape the oceans of more beluga families in the wild. It has not been yet determined as to whether nor not the belugas will be brought into the country, but Russian scientists have already collected the specimens of choice from the Russian Sea of Okhotsk.