Saturday, October 27, 2012

World's Largest Aquarium Operator Objects to Beluga Importation Attempt by US Marine Parks

Reprinted with Permission. Original document embedded below.


Sea Life Boss Weighs In To Try And Save Captured Whales

The UK-based Sea Life Centre network has thrown its weight behind efforts to block the export of 18 beluga whales from Russia to aquariums in the US.

The 18 ‘white’ whales were taken from the wild by Russian trappers and are now in cramped holding pens awaiting their fate.


The Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta has applied for a federal import permit on behalf of a group of marine parks, saying the aquariums need the Arctic whales for captive breeding efforts, research and education.


But Sea Life’s US Divisional Director in New York, Janine DiGioaccino, has written a strong letter of protest to the US Government.


Writing on behalf of the 41 Sea Life centres worldwide, including five in the US, Janine said that Sea Life concurred with the view of all the leading authorities in this field and indeed the majority of ordinary American citizens canvassed on the subject, that cetaceans are not suited to captivity…no matter how spacious or well-designed the facilities.


Belugas SeaLife Center Statement




“They are wide-ranging, highly intelligent and social animals which suffer acute sensory deprivation in any kind of unnatural confinement,” she added.

“The argument that such displays are good for education and conservation does not, in our view, come anywhere near to outweighing the undoubted suffering and stress incurred not only by the captured animals themselves, but also by the family groups from which they have been so cruelly and abruptly separated.”


She went on to criticise the US for being among the ‘worst offenders’ in perpetuating an out-dated and wholly unethical trade and practice.

“Keeping cetaceans of any kind, unless they are injured or ailing rescued animals requiring full time care, is just plain wrong,” she added.

“We would be failing in our responsibility as the world’s largest aquarium operator were we not to say so publicly, for the long-term credibility of our industry as well as the more immediate benefit of the unfortunate beluga whales currently awaiting their fate in Russia.”

The Sea Life network’s global headquarters is in Poole, Dorset, and it has a long-term partnership with the charity Whale & Dolphin Conservation.


Opponents of Georgia Aquarium’s plans have until Monday, October 29th, to register their protest via the website:

http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2012-0158-0001

Issued by Merlin Entertainments (Sea Life) Ltd.
For more details contact: Mark Oakley 01202 440040.


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The full text of Janine’s letter is copied below:





October 25th, 2012

To Whom It May Concern…

On behalf of SEA LIFE Centres worldwide, not least the five centres here in the US, I feel compelled to register the strongest possible opposition to the proposed import of the 18 wild-caught belugas to the Georgia aquarium.

SEA LIFE concurs with the view of all the leading authorities in this field and indeed the majority of ordinary American citizens canvassed on this subject, that cetaceans are not suited to captivity…no matter how spacious or well-designed the facilities.


They are wide-ranging, highly intelligent and social animals which suffer acute sensory deprivation in any kind of unnatural confinement.


The argument that such displays are good for education and conservation does not, in our view, come anywhere near to outweighing the undoubted suffering and stress incurred not only by the captured animals themselves, but also by the family groups from which they have been so cruelly and abruptly separated.


America is an enlightened nation which should be leading the world in demonstrating care and compassion for special creatures like these. Instead we are one of the worst offenders in perpetuating an out-dated and wholly unethical trade and practice.


SEA LIFE’s parent company has itself – through its acquisition of theme parks which already housed them - become costodian of captive dolphins and whales.


Rather than further exploit these animals for profit, we are urgently progressing plans to create a natural sanctuary where these and hopefully others from other public attractions around the world, can be re-homed, retired and if feasible, rehabilitated.


Keeping cetaceans of any kind, even when there is some educational merit, is a vastly different proposition to the display of fish and other marine creatures which have been proven to flourish is carefully designed and maintained aquarium tanks.



Unless they are injured or ailing rescued animals requiring full time care, it is just plain wrong…and we would be failing in our responsibility as the world’s largest aquarium operator were we not to say so publicly, for the long-term credibility of our industry as well as the more immediate benefit of the unfortunate beluga whales currently awaiting their fate in a cramped holding pen in Russia.


Janine DiGioacchino
Divisional Director
Merlin Entertainments (Midway) USA


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NGO Statement Regarding Beluga Imports with Signatures

7 comments:

  1. The belugas in question have been in captivity for years, they will not be released. The question now is what facility will take care of them and I would rather see them in the USA if they must be captive.

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    1. It's time to put an end to it. Your argument would indefinitely perpetuate the barbaric practice. If cetaceans can be rehabilitated, it would seem one year is not so long that they could not be rehabilitated. Regardless, if the US bans it, a major source of potential revenue stops. The market will drive the final demise of this cruelty. The US should be one of the leaders in shutting down demand.

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    2. I worked with captive beluga whales, and they don't do well in captivity. There wasn't much of an educational component to the show, just an opportunity for a paying customer to pet a whale. It's unfortunate these gentle whales have been captured; but, a profit incentive cannot be allowed to reinforce the captors, it will lead to more of the same. Beth & Jim, thx for your comments. It's interesting how most pro captivity comments go by "unknown" or "anonymous." Maybe it's a sign they know they are championing a dying industry and supporting inhumane behaviors.

      Beth, we love your article at Digital Journal: http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/335503

      Andy's at The Atlantic: http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/10/the-aquarium-politics-of-the-global-beluga-whale-trade/264097/

      Brandon's at WIRED: http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2012/10/beluga-aquarium-controversy/

      And Virginia's at National Geographic: http://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/2012/10/22/should-we-import-belugas-for-display/

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    3. Thanks JV. Yes I wish more people would stand behind their comments. Pro-caps are indeed championing a dying industry. Bit by bit the rug is being inched away from beneath their feet. Science and biologists no longer support aquaria as the gold standard for marine mammals and ironically, their findings have accrued because of studies on wild populations of marine mammals. They've far surpassed the captive industry and beaten them at their own gain.

      All that captive institutions have to go on now is public opinion and selling their wares to an ignorant public. That too is changing.

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  2. To rather see them in the US than go elsewhere is an irresponsible view being pushed by Georgia Aquarium. Being the lesser of two evils does not make it right. If the aquarium is allowed to import, it would set a dangerous precedent for other US aquariums that might seek this route to bolster their petting pools. Furthermore, handing money to Russia would only endorse and bolster the captures in the long term. What happens with these 18 belugas, carves out the future for wild belugas around the world. Suggestions are that other facilities (based on this case) may even be looking to catch these mammals in Canada. The long-term ramifications are just not worth it. I am glad Merlin stepped up and denounced this immoral snatch and grab by Georgia Aquarium.

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  3. Me and my friend had visited many aquariums in US.I had seen there a variety of species of fishes.Then after coming from there i made my mind to made a n aquarium for my own home. Then i went to SeaquaticAquarium, from them i had bought a new Aquarium and some fishes also, now i had decorated it with different plants, and had put lighted screensaver in it also.

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