Georgia Aquarium Seeking to Bring 18 whales for Public Display
The Georgia Aquarium, which is considered to be a top tourist destination and best aquarium in North America, submitted the application for an MMPA permit on June 15, 2012. It is home to one hundred thousand exotic fish and marine life swimming in 10 million gallons of water. The application requested authorization of bringing 18 captured beluga whales from the Utrish Marine Mammal Research Station in Russia to the United States for the purpose of public display.
The application was denied by federal officers of NMFS (National Marine Fishery Service) However, earlier this week Georgia Aquarium still wanted to import these whales and has now decided to fight its case. Lawyers for the aquarium asked a federal judge on Wednesday to compel the agency to hand over more internal documents to show on which grounds the agency denied the permit.
Georgia Aquarium also called the decision "deeply disappointing". They mention that the animals would help to ensure the sustainability of beluga whales in human care in the U.S. for the purpose of education, research and conservation.
Ethan Eddy, an attorney with the Department of Justice representing NOAA, said, "What we're hearing is a lot of innuendo, that there might be a bad motive behind this," Eddy told the court. Allowing staff to have candid conversations in private was a valuable tool for making decisions".
According to NMFS, the best available science shows that this particular population, beluga whale stock of the Sea of Okhotsk, is likely in decline and might lead to the capture of more marine mammals beyond the 18 belugas.
NMFS turned down the permit because the officials think that the import of the whales will also violate the US Marine Mammal Protection Act. They also believe that removing the whales from their natural habitat would cause considerable damage to the wild beluga whale population.
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