NOAA Imposes Strong Restrictions on Aquariums’ Import of Captive Belugas for Research
West Hartford, CT (September 3, 2020) Cetacean Society International (CSI) and other animal and environmental protection groups applaud the Department of Commerce’s decision to prohibit Mystic Aquarium from breeding five captive-born beluga whales from Canada as part of an import permit issued Friday. The permit also precludes Mystic from training the whales for performance.
The Connecticut aquarium applied for a permit last year to import the belugas from Marineland, a marine theme park in Niagara Falls, Canada, for the purpose of scientific research. Among other research projects, Mystic proposed behavioral and reproduction studies, including breeding and research on pregnant females and their progeny, raising concerns that the real purpose of the import was to perpetuate the captive beluga population for public display in the United States. Moreover, under a partnership between Mystic and Georgia aquariums, three of the whales could eventually be transferred to Atlanta. The permit conditions clarify that the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS)must approve any decision to transfer the animals.
In issuing the permit Friday, NMFS authorized seven of Mystic’s eight research projects; it did not authorize the study related to reproduction. The permit conditions prohibit the aquariums from breeding the whales, using them in public interactive programs(such as photo opportunities), or training them for performance.
The permit restrictions come after a group of animal and environmental protection organizations submitted comments* in December opposing the permit, outlining their substantive legal and policy objections under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA). These groups urged the inclusion of the no-breeding and no-performance clauses in a permit if one was issued, as well as the clarification that NMFS — not the permit holder —should make any decisions regarding the disposition of these whales.
NMFS’s decision is indicative of a broader global movement in recent years to end the unsustainable and inhumane cetacean trade and public display. The 2013 documentary “Blackfish” had an enormous impact on the public’s view of captive orcas. That same year, NMFS denied a request by Georgia Aquarium to import wild-caught Russian belugas for public display. In 2016, SeaWorld ended orca breeding at its parks, and, last year, Canada passed a law to phase out the keeping of cetaceans in captivity in the country.
CSI president David Kaplan stated, “We are pleased that NMFS has banned Mystic Aquarium from breeding the belugas, as we worried that the import would create a backdoor that would have allowed the industry to get “new blood” into US captive beluga breeding programs.” Before Mystic can import the belugas, the facility must provide NMFS with a detailed contraception plan to prevent breeding, and Canada must issue a permit to export the whales from Marineland. Kaplan continued, “CSI believes it is no longer justifiable for whales to be kept in captivity.”
Canada is currently developing regulatory procedures for issuing export permits for captive cetaceans under its new law and is calling for public submissions; animal advocates support strong and clear requirements in such permits to prohibit breeding and performance. Many countries do not have comparable laws to the MMPA, and Canada must ensure any captive cetaceans exported from the country continue to be covered by Canada’s powerful legislative protections.
-Right Whales need your help!! The Government of Canada is seeking public comments on a proposed Action Plan for right whales. This is a requirement of our Species at Risk Act. Go to: https://rightwhaletosave.org/en/ and leave a comment to help critically endangered North Atlantic Right Whales!
-North Atlantic Right Whales Now Red-Listed As Critically Endangered. According to Vineyard Gazette, “The North Atlantic right whale has officially been red-listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature — an ominous step for a species that has long teetered on the brink of extinction.
May 15 is Endangered Species Day. Check out this article about Orca Whales in this time of Covid-19:
Cetacean Society International signed on to a global declaration to end the commercial trade and sale in markets of wildlife. Add your voice and sign the petition at: https://endthetrade.com/
The legislature’s Environment Committee is scheduled to hold a public hearing at 10:30 a.m. Friday in the Legislative Office Building on Raised Bill 5341: "An act prohibiting the sale and breeding of certain cetaceans.” If approved by the legislature this spring, it would take effect Oct. 1.
CSI is in support of this Bill and ask that Connecticut residents contact your state reps and ask them to support the bill.
You can locate your legislator at https://www.cga.ct.gov/asp/menu/cgafindleg.asp
Call and say you support House Bill 5341 and give the name of the bill AN ACT PROHIBITING THE SALE AND BREEDING OF CERTAIN CETACEANS.
Phone calls to the chairs of environment committee in favor:
. House Chair Mike Demicco
. Senate Chair Christine Cohen
-Cornell University will be hosting a series of free events and workshops called "The Whale Listening Project. For more information about the event go to: https://music.cornell.edu/thewhalelisteningproject.
-On February 17, 2020 CSI held it's annual meeting and elected the directors for 2020:
President, David Kaplan Esq.
Treasurer, George A. Upton, PE
Vice President, Kurt Ransom
Secretary, Jennifer Cody
A. Daniel Knaub
The Santa Barbara International Film Festival 2020 premieres “Whales Without Walls,” a short film about the Whale Sanctuary Project.
A legend in the scientific community and champion of whale conservation,
Dr. Sidney Holt passed away on December 22, 2019 at the age of 93. Holt’s scientific career spanned 70 years and he is probably most remembered for a book he coauthored back in 1957 called On the Dynamics of Exploitation of Fisheries Populations. This book, considered to be the foundation for modern fisheries science, is still used today. He also worked in various leadership roles for the United Nations for 25 years. After his retirement, he focused on whale conservation for the next 30 years. A champion of the "Save the Whales" movement that started in the 70s, Sidney was a lead proponent of both the International Whaling Commission’s commercial whaling moratorium and the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. He was also one of the first to support the late Robbins Barstow and Cetacean Society International’s push to get the concept of “non-consumptive utilization of whales” and whale watching accepted by the IWC. He received many honors for his conservation work, including the Royal Netherlands Golden Ark and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Global 500 award.
-CSI's Letter to the Editor Published November 11, 2019 in The Day, New London, CT
Mystic Aquarium Should Not Import Belugas
Mystic Aquarium wants to import five belugas from Marineland in Canada for research. The whales are offspring of wild-caught whales from a Russian population designated as "depleted," making their import for public display illegal under U.S. law. Mystic has limited space, so the whales will be on display by default.
Three of the whales will belong to Georgia Aquarium, which tried importing 18 wild-caught belugas from Russia for display and breeding. This led to powerful criticism of the attempt to tear these young whales from their families. The facility lost a federal court battle in 2015 because the import would have violated U.S. standards. It is disturbing that Mystic, a well-respected facility, would partner with such an aquarium.
Mystic's precedent-setting proposal seems like a public display dressed as research. The whales could mate and produce offspring being a backdoor to get "new blood" into U.S. captive beluga breeding programs.
It is no longer justifiable for whales to be kept in captivity for purposes of exhibition, and a new Canadian law prohibits display, breeding, import and export of cetaceans. Mystic should help improve life for the belugas at Marineland and conduct any needed research there.
-CSI will be set up at Open Studio Hartford November 9 and 10th in the Colt Buidling, 140 Huyshope Ave, Hartford, CT. We will have our Rails to Trails prints, the art of Don Sineti, whale ornaments by Jessica Dickens for sale and more. Come visit our booth! We would love to see you!
-CSI 's SAVERS campaign this fall just ended.
We delivered a truck load today to SAVERS. In fact, 2341 lbs of donated clothes
-CSI Co-sponsors a survey that reveals Norway Shows little appetite for whale meat
The future of Norway’s whaling industry appears to be in serious doubt as it struggles to deal with low catch numbers, falling prices for whale meat and declining interest in its products on the domestic market. The head of Norway’s Whalers’ Association, Truls Soløy, described the 2019 whaling season as “particularly disappointing” after a total of 429 minke whales were killed, even fewer than last year (454) and well below the country’s self-allocated quota of 1,278. The declining catch reflects the dwindling domestic demand for whale meat, despite continuing subsidies ploughed into the industry by the Norwegian government.
CSI Sponsors Latest Entanglement Response Trainees in Cape Cod.
This year’s two apprentices to the Global Whale Entanglement Response Network have completed their training with the IWC and its partner, the Center for Coastal Studies (CCS), and returned to Peru.
Vanessa Bachmann and Chiara Guidino are the latest people to participate in the apprenticeship programme, which builds on skills learnt on a previous, two-day entanglement response workshop. The apprenticeships take place at the Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown, US, and cover more advanced aspects of entanglement response, from boat safety regulations and design of the custom-built tools, to a study of the approaches taken by different response teams around the world.
Perhaps most importantly, apprentices are taught how to deliver the two-day workshops which the IWC organises in partnership with national governments and are held in-country. These teach safe and effective entanglement response to groups of 20-40 participants including fishers, coastguard, naval and conservation officers, all nominated by their governments. A number of former apprentices are now conducting training themselves, as well as leading their countries’ response teams and networks.