Small Victory for Belugas
An Animal Rights Article from All-Creatures.org

FROM

Earth in Transition
October 2015

"Like something out of a Russian spy novel ... Georgia Aquarium launched a wholesale attack on NMFS, accusing the Agency of 'cooking the books' to fabricate its rationale in a deliberate and conspiratorial effort to deny Georgia Aquarium's import permit." The victory is only partial, however. The belugas are still held captive in Russia, and they will almost certainly end up in show business in other countries instead. But at least the marine circuses in the U.S. are on notice not to try this maneuver again.

beluga whales

Small victory for belugas. Eighteen gentle white whales, captured in Russian waters, will not be coming to marine circuses in the United States.

After an intensive three-year effort by the Georgia Aquarium to overturn a ruling by the National Marine Fisheries Service, a federal judge has upheld the decision to deny the marine circus a permit to import the belugas and distribute some of them around other aquariums.

Belugas are sweet-natured, cute-looking mammals. Their natural homes are the oceans of the Arctic and sub-Arctic, where they travel in extended families of hundreds, sometimes up to a thousand, and often under the ice, where their amazing echolocation enables them to seek out pockets of air and holes in the ice so they can come to the surface to breathe.

The beluga business began in the 1850s when hucksters like P.T. Barnum began capturing them and putting them on show in Boston and New York. But these whales are now endangered, and marine circuses are afraid of running out of them. Hence the roundup in Russia's Sea of Okhotsk.

On Monday, in a scalding ruling against the Georgia Aquarium, Judge Amy Totenberg wrote: "Like something out of a Russian spy novel ... Georgia Aquarium launched a wholesale attack on NMFS, accusing the Agency of 'cooking the books' to fabricate its rationale in a deliberate and conspiratorial effort to deny Georgia Aquarium's import permit."
The victory is only partial, however. The belugas are still held captive in Russia, and they will almost certainly end up in show business in other countries instead. But at least the marine circuses in the U.S. are on notice not to try this maneuver again.


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