By Joe Wojtas   Day staff writer
Originally appeared on

Mystic — A report by U.S. Department of Agriculture inspectors has criticized how Mystic Aquarium cared for a 5-year-old male beluga whale in the final hours before his death last August.

The report states “that in the eight hours prior to his death, staff members conducting the overnight watch documented multiple observations of abnormal behavior and did not alert the attending Veterinarian. The frequency of these abnormal behaviors markedly increased during this time compared to what had been observed previously.”

Named Havok, he was one of five beluga whales that were transferred from Marineland Canada to the aquarium last year. He died in the early morning of Friday, Aug. 6. Another one of the transferred whales, a female, died this February.


Darien-based Friends of Animals, one of the groups that opposed the whales’ transfer last year, on Thursday criticized the aquarium’s care of Havok.

“Mystic deceives the public by using research to justify importing belugas and its fundraising efforts. The public needs to wake up and see that the staff at Mystic doesn’t even know what to do when an animal is dying in front of them, let alone conduct research,” said Priscilla Feral, president of Friends of Animals. “Keeping whales in bathtubs for photo ops is not research or conservation unless you are researching how to make more money.”

She added “It’s long past time for Connecticut to ban importing whales and breeding in captivity” and added “game-changing research to help belugas in the wild …. is being done by studying them in the wild.” 

“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 exploiting animals,” Feral said. “Such captivity strips wild animals of their dignity, and in the case of these belugas, it ended their lives.”