A female beluga whale has died at Mystic Aquarium and another whale is in intensive care just six months after a male beluga died. The three were transported in the dead of night with two others in May of 2021 from Marineland in Canada despite countless warnings that the move would risk their lives. Darien, Connecticut-based Friends of Animals, an international animal advocacy group, contested the transfer in a court battle.

“As we told Judge Alvin W. Thompson, who ruled in error and against Friends of Animals and allowed these belugas to be transferred, the move would tear them from deep social relationships formed at the only home they knew, and the physical and psychological stress they were exposed to would increase risk of disease and death,” said Priscilla Feral, president of Friends of Animals. “Their fates were doomed and the aquarium failed them because it ignored science. Mystic deceives the public by using research to justify importing belugas and its fundraising efforts. Mystic is shameless.”

Adding insult to injury, more than 200 online bidders and attendees of a live auction over the summer raised $3.4 million for Mystic Aquarium. One of the hot-ticket items—naming rights for three of the belugas; the right to name the fourth came from a raffle.

“The legal system failed these belugas, but we still have the court of public opinion. It’s time to redefine family entertainment as something other than posing in front of belugas for photo ops,” Feral said. “Keeping whales in bathtubs for photo ops is not research or conservation unless you are researching how to make more money. It’s long past time for Connecticut to ban importing whales and breeding in captivity. Captivity strips wild animals of their dignity, and in the case of these belugas, it ended their lives.”