Georgia Aquarium wanted to import 18 beluga whales from the Utrish Marine Mammal Research Station on Russia’s Black Sea Coast for display in various public aquariums in the United States. The partner aquariums would include SeaWorld of California, SeaWorld of Florida, SeaWorld of Texas, and Shedd Aquarium in Chicago.
After carefully reviewing the permit, the NOAA denied the import request citing the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA). The application was denied 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.
A 60-day comment period was held back in 2012 and over the course of the period, about 9,000 comments on the permit were received.
More information about the ruling can be found on the NOAA’s website.