pFriends of Animals interviewed today on New England Cable News to OPPOSE a U.S. move to import 18 beluga whales from Russia to U.S. Aquaria./p
p(NECN: Brian Burnell) – Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut could be adding to its star attraction if 18 beluga whales are imported to the US from Russia./p
pThe government has to sign off on the deal first, and many animal rights groups are fighting the idea./p
pMystic Aquarium’s Beluga whales are the top attraction and help draw thousands of people here each year. Mystic might be getting more Beluga’s if the National Marine Fisheries Service allows the importation of 18 Beluga’s captured in Russian waters. Federal law does allow for the removal from the wild or importation of marine mammals for public display. Animal rights activists like Priscilla Feral, though, think it’s a horrible idea./p
p”Foreign nations are catching whales in their waters and then holding them, really, for ransom trying to get U.S. aquariums interested,” says Priscilla Feral of Friends of Animals./p
pAnimal researchers point out that the particular Beluga population these 18 whales were taken from has been studied extensively and deemed healthy and sustainable. Peter Glankoff is the executive director at Mystic Aquarium. He says it important institutions like his be able to get marine mammals./p
p”As with many other species that are threatened, the idea is to keep these animals sustained under human care,” says Glankoff, “to keep the genetic pool rich and diverse so that these animals can breed.”/p
pAnd he says it’s important to display them to the public so people gain a greater appreciation and affection for the natural world./p
p”Ninety-percent of Americans think that having animals like this under human care is inspiring, is educational and motivating for young people to understand nature better,” he says./p
pBut Feral looks upon this as nothing more than a carnival side show./p
p”They’re confined, really, in glass tanks. It’s not the same as living free in the ocean,” says Feral. “Mixing it up with people who are in wet suits paying $450 for a marriage proposal with the Beluga as some kind of chaperone. And that’s what actually goes on in U.S. aquariums.”/p
pMystic Aquarium could get a couple of these Belugas if the application is approved but they’re not actually putting in the application. That’s being done by the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta./p
pThe public comment period on the application will be open until October 29. There’s no word on when the government will make a decision./p