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October 22, 2012

Tell Agency Today To Reject Aquarium’s Request

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Update: The e-mail address used for the initial Action Alert was invalid. Please go onto the NOAA website and upon entering your information, cut and paste the letter that appears in this updated Action Alert below my signature. And remember, the deadline to comment is by the end of the day on Monday, Oct. 29.

Or you can mail your letter to Chief, Permits and Conservation Division; Office of Protected Resources, NOAA Fisheries; 1315 East-West Highway, Room 13705; Silver Spring, MD 20910.

Or you can fax your letter to (301) 713-0376, Attn: Jennifer Skidmore.

Dear Friend,

The Georgia Aquarium has applied for a permit to import 18 beluga whales from Russia. Please tell the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to deny the aquarium's exploitative request!

Beluga whales are protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), and the plan to transport these animals involves multiple plane and truck transfers that pose a significant risk for them and violate MMPA guidelines about imposing stress on animals.

It is troubling that Georgia Aquarium officials blithely claim this import promotes conservation. They themselves admit it's really about improving genetic diversity of captive belugas despite the dismal failure rate of the facility's breeding program. The only calf ever born at the Georgia Aquarium died after only a week!

Although some of the 18 belugas would go to the Georgia Aquarium, most would be sent to other tourist attractions (including the Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut and the SeaWorlds in California, Florida and Texas) for the purpose of breeding under loan agreements. These facilities together already possess more than 30 belugas — there is no reason to import more whales!

Greed, not conservation, seems to be the motivating factor for these facilities to acquire belugas. Georgia Aquarium and Mystic Aquarium not only put their belugas on display to perform demeaning tricks, but also run beluga "encounter" programs that are similar to the all-popular dolphin encounters that most marine parks now run, charging up to $375 per encounter!

Whales and dolphins belong in the sea, not in man-made pools! Tell that to the NOAA today.

For the animals,

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P.S. Please cut and paste this sample letter to NOAA through its website (or send it by mail or fax, as instructed above and here) and personalize the letter for a stronger statement:

I respectfully ask that you not issue the permit for the importation of 18 beluga whales captured from the Russian Sea of Okhotsk to the Georgia Aquarium.

Beluga whales should not be held captive to perform demeaning tricks and to be exploited as objects of interactive programs in which they are treated like animals in petting zoos. They should be swimming free in the sea, where they are able to migrate vast distances to interact with hundreds of other belugas. Even at their best, man-made structures cannot replicate the vastness of the sea nor provide the socialization these mammals need.

The importation of more beluga whales to enhance the genetic diversity of captive whales is a mistake. Captive beluga breeding programs' track record of live births and surviving calves is dismal. Despite the sophisticated technology and veterinarians available to the Georgian Aquarium, the only calf ever born in the facility since the incorporation of its beluga whale breeding program died after one week.

Nine out of the 18 belugas were females taken from the sea before they were sexually mature, which could very well affect future beluga populations in the area. Female belugas don't reach sexual maturity until they are 5 to 9 years old. Females only give birth to single calves (twins on rare occasions) every two to three years, on average, which accounts for a slow recovery of population even when the wild beluga pods are undisturbed.

Please do not issue the permit for 18 beluga whale imports to Georgia Aquarium.

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