Thursday, October 25, 2012

Last Call for Beluga Whales

I realize that today is not Whale/Dolphin Wednesday but I wanted to put it out there that NOAA is accepting public comments related to the permit for the import of 18 beluga whales by the Georgia 
Aquarium through Monday, October 29.  

I have talked about this permit and the effects in previous posts:
September 26 
October 10
October 17

Originally I thought the opportunity for public comment was over but there is still an opportunity for further comments.  I submitted mine today.

If you are interested in submitting comments of your own, you can go HERE for more information and instructions.  This is a highly controversial permit request, the first of it's kind in over 20 years.  The request is for these 18 belugas to be shipped to Georgia Aquarium where they will then be dispersed to 5-6 different marine parks for "public display".  The reasoning is supposed research for breeding programs.  

I've included my comment below to give ideas for talking points:

I find the request for a permit to import the 18 beluga whales for the purpose of “public display” utterly unnecessary and downright offensive.  These whales have sadly already been taken from their home, away from their natural food sources and away from their pods and other available breeding pods.  That alone has an impact on the future of this animal.  Taken by being caught off guard with motorboats and being netted in shallow waters is not humane.

If the permit is approved, they will again endure between 23 and 30 hours of undue stress being separated once again and flown across the globe.  It has been documented in stress hormone studies that the animals suffer with this transport.

Historically beluga whales do not thrive well in captivity.  Almost half of those currently on “public display” have died prematurely.  The average lifespan in captivity is much shorter than those who are left in the wild.

Currently there are 40 beluga whales held captive in Marineland of Canada that are in need of rescue from deplorable conditions.  If the list of these aquariums wanting beluga whales for “public display” have the whales’ best interest in mind, they could help make a difference for these whales instead of encouraging the Russians to continue capturing wild whales for captivity.  The beluga whales in Marineland are in need of help and transport would be shorter and less stressful than essentially starting over with wild caught whales.  With no permit request in over 20 years to import wild caught whales, this would be a huge step backwards from true research and education. 

Beluga whales also have highly complex social systems and communication systems.  They are able to make clicks, squeaks and other various sounds in order to communicate with each other.  With the capture of these 18 belugas taken at 3 different times and then again potentially being separated out to six new locations, they not be able to communicate with each other.  Each pod has its own language and combining whales from separate pods will complicate their communication.  When they are put into a concrete tank, the sound will not travel as it would in the wild, bouncing off the walls, and further throwing off this advanced communication system.

The idea of holding these whales captive for research and breeding programs defeats the purpose of the research.  There is no reason for researching an animal out of his natural setting.  The life of these whales in captivity resembles nothing of their life in the wild.  The eating habits are different, being fed frozen fish and additional vitamins in captivity to balance their needs.  The breeding, whether natural or by artificial insemination, would lose valuable information about these animals.  In the wild, they travel thousands of kilometers to go to warmer waters in order to breed and raise their young.  To educate people on captive breeding would provide false information, and there is no reason to breed captive beluga whales for further false information. 

These whales should be studied in their natural habitats in order to truly understand their eating, migration and breeding patterns.  Captivity will never give us a clear picture of these highly intelligent creatures.


  1. Great post and comment to the NOAA relating to the permit!

  2. I agree. I think it's possible to study them in their natural habitats. There's no need for cruelty.

  3. I'm not making light of this at all...but imagine a Planet of the Apes kind of thing but with whales. They hold people under the sea in tiny boxes filled with just enough air (not too much) while they try to get a permit so they can watch us.

  4. We love whales and dolphins. We have annual passes to Seaworld and San Diego zoo. We can never get enough of these awe inspiring creatures.

  5. Your letter is very well written and very persuasive. (The details abut the Canadian aquariums is awful and surprising.) I hope for you and the poor 18 whales that someone reads it and it makes a difference.