According to Reuters, the Georgia Aquarium seeking to bring 18 belugas from Russia into the United States stands little chance to win the case with the Atlanta U.S. District Court.
The 18 belugas or white whales were captured 9 years ago, in 2006, off the coast of Russia, in the waters of the Okhotsk Sea. Since then, they have been in the care of the Russian Federation scientists.
The Georgia, Atlanta Aquarium is not at the first legal proceeding on the matter. Previously, in 2013, the legal battle against the government took heed. Then, in 2014 countering a denial of the right to bring the belugas in the United States, the aquarium asked to see the internal governmental paperwork which had documented the denial of permission to bring and curate the marine life in the U.S.
Now, the Atlanta U.S. District Court Judge, Amy Totenberg is hearing from the representatives of the Georgia Aquarium, who are once more making the case for better treatment of the belugas as well as a boost of scientific research, and educational and conservational efforts.
Belugas are typically found swimming in the colder water of the Arctic or sub-Arctic. In some regions they fall under the endangered or near threatened classification. As such, representatives of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration fisheries services are arguing strongly against bringing the 18 belugas in an environment that is not theirs to begin with.
According to them, moving their location would both unbalance the wild beluga population and legally breach the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
Yet, a number of documents filed with the U.S. District Court by the Georgia Aquarium underlines the seemingly acceptance of the project by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration up until 2013. Afterwards, the stance shifted to a categorical refusal.
The court lawsuit is still ongoing. Judge Amy Totenberg has yet to issue a ruling on the case. Currently, the Georgia Aquarium has three belugas in its care. Two others died as babies since 2012, although it is not an issue concerning the case for the permit to bring the 18 belugas in the United States.
Once brought here, according to Scott Higley of the Georgia Aquarium:
“The decision will be based on what is best for the collective beluga population in accredited facilities in North America. They will only go to accredited facilities that already care for belugas”.
This means, if the permit application is correct, that some belugas would remain in the care of the Georgia aquarium, while others would find their way to other marine life facilities such as SeaWorld.
Photo Credits: inotternews.com