BELUGAS BEHIND BARS :
ACTIVISTS TRY TO FREE 18 CAPTIVE WHALES
by David Kirby August 18 . 2013
The recently captured cetaceans are stuck in the small tanks of a research station, waiting to be released. Captive whales have been able to re-enter the wild successfully, but authorizing their release is an uphill battle. (Photo: Stuart Gregory/Getty Images)
Earlier this month, the federal government surprised marine-mammal activists and observers by denying a permit for two aquariums and SeaWorld to import 18 beluga whales captured off the coast of Russia.
The whales have been languishing in small tanks at the Utrish Marine Mammal Research Station. With their ultimate fate uncertain, a new petition is now asking Moscow to set the belugas free.
Posted by the anti-captivity group Fins and Fluke on the Change.org website, the petition states:
"We are petitioning the Russian department of Fisheries and the Utrishskiy delphinarium (which commissioned the capture) to first allow a panel of experts to assess and evaluate the health and well-being of these mammals. We are then asking that pending the health of each beluga, the team be granted permission to rehabilitate and release these animals back into the ocean, where they belong."
The import application was filed by the Georgia Aquarium, though many of the animals would have been destined for display at Chicago's Shedd Aquarium and all three SeaWorld parks.
The biggest fear among activists now is that all 18 whales will simply be auctioned off to the highest bidder, in countries that lack animal-welfare protections afforded in the United States, weak as they are.
"We are well aware that some of these Beluga Whales may be deemed unfit for release," the petition says. "And we are asking that the Utrishskiy delphinarium consult the expert panel to make the right decision on the type of facility these animals may end up residing in."
The wayward whales "have endured enough stress just with their capture alone to last a lifetime," notes the petition, adding that several captive cetaceans have been successfully rehabilitated and released into the wild.
These include the orca Keiko, who was the star of Free Willy, a young female orca named Springer, who just had a calf, and Tom and Misha, two wild-caught captive dolphins "still doing well in the ocean after their rehabilitation and release over a year later." Recently three wild-caught captive dolphins in South Korea were also set free.
So far, the petition has collected more than one-third of the 10,000 signatures sought, something that thrills Fins and Fluke president Alex Dorer.
"This idea had always been in place for us since news of the Georgia Aquarium's application was made public, we just didn't think we'd have the chance to actually do it, Dorer says. "We were convinced for quite some time that the import was going to be approved so we didn't think it was possible to move forward. Now the import was denied our first order of business was to reach out to several experts and make our petition public."
Fins and Fluke "made a vow to see this to the very end, and although the decision not to import these Beluga's (sic) has been made final, they are still sitting in a holding facility in Russia," she adds.
"We are hoping that ultimately these Beluga's have a fair chance at a happy, healthy life outside of a tank or a holding sea pen. It's important to us that at the very least we find out the health of these animals and allow a panel of experts to be consulted on a plan of action."
What are the chances for success? "We understand Russia is an extremely difficult country to work with, but we are hoping that they take the chance and become another country recognized for doing the right thing for cetaceans," Dorer says.
"We are extremely hopeful but we are also very realistic and do understand that there is a huge possibility that these Beluga's could be sold to a marine-park facility." Indeed, she adds, "It is entirely possible these Beluga's have already been sold, and if that's the case I would be heartbroken."
Last week, TakePart reported on a beluga trainer injured during a performance at Marineland, in Ontario, Canada. It appeared as if the whale may have bitten down on the knee of the trainer, who was reportedly hospitalized, though Marineland isn't commenting.
Was that beluga trying to send us a message, that life in a tank is stressful for such intelligent, sentient creatures? We will never know. But the timing, no matter how coincidental, is instructive. The unintended message that we might take home from that captive beluga may have been: "Captivity is painful. Let my cousins go."
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(Photo: Tyson Paul/Getty)
HELL NO, THEY WON'T GO! GEORGIA AQUARIUM AND OTHERS DENIED WHALE SHIPMENT. CONSERVATIONISTS REJOICE AS U.S. DENIES PERMIT TO IMPORT 18 BELUGA WHALES FROM RUSSIA.
Pledge action link is below here, please act!
August 7, 2013David Kirby
NOAA has rejected a permit request from the Georgia Aquarium that would have allowed the import of 18 beluga whales into the U.S. from Russia.
In a move that surprised and delighted anti-captivity activists, the U.S. government on Tuesday denied a permit to the Georgia Aquarium, which also included requests from the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago and SeaWorld, to import 18 wild-caught beluga whales from Russia.
It was a blow to the captive display industry and, many observers say, emblematic of a turning tide in public and governmental attitudes toward keeping such intelligent, social creatures in tanks for human enjoyment.
“Following a number of public engagement efforts, NOAA Fisheries today announced it is denying the Georgia Aquarium’s request for a permit,” the agency announced in a written statement. It based the move on “the requirements of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA).”
Limited importation of some wild-captured marine mammals for public display is permitted under the MMPA. But according to the government, this was the first request for import in more than 20 years.
“The Georgia Aquarium clearly worked hard to follow the required process and submit a thorough application, and we appreciate their patience and cooperation as we carefully considered this case,” the statement from NOAA went on to say. “However, under the strict criteria of the law, we were unable to determine if the import of these belugas, combined with the active capture operation in Russia and other human activities, would have an adverse impact on this stock of wild beluga whales.”
The application to import the whales, which TakePart reported on last October and would have been divided between the Georgia Aquarium, Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, and the three SeaWorld parks in Florida, Texas, and California, ultimately failed to meet “several” MMPA criteria. The government ruled:
We determined that the import permit will likely have a significant adverse impact on the species or stock.
We determined that the requested import will likely result in the taking of marine mammals beyond those authorized by the permit.
We determined that five of the beluga whales proposed for import, estimated to be approximately 1.5 years old at the time of capture, were potentially still nursing and not yet independent.
The public pushback against the import permit has been formidable, with most of the 9,000 opinions submitted during a public comment period last year expressing dissent. “The comments that were most helpful to our decision-making process addressed the specific MMPA and regulatory criteria that we must use to make a decision and discussed why the commenter felt the application did or did not meet them,” the NOAA statement said.
DON'T BUY THE TICKET! WHALES & DOLPHINS SHOULDN'T BE IN CAPTIVITY
TAKE THE PLEDGE:
I pledge not to buy a ticket to water parks where whales and dolphins are held in captivity for profit. My money will not be used to confine animals that should be in the wild.
In addition, I pledge to support organizations like Save Japan Dolphins, who are advocating on behalf of these vulnerable and highly intelligent animals.
ABOUT THE PLEDGE:
It’s hard to imagine that the dolphin doing flips at SeaWorld is in pain but in reality, these animals are suffering. The whales and dolphins you see at these water parks are often violently captured in the wild, separated from their families, and forced to perform for crowds thousands of miles away.
Whales and dolphins are highly intelligent animals who suffer acute sensory deprivation when they’re confined. While in captivity, they experience numerous physical and psychological problems that they wouldn’t otherwise in the wild.
These sensitive, majestic animals deserve to be treated with respect, not confined to excruciatingly small spaces and forced to perform tricks. Organizations like Save Japan Dolphins are fighting to make sure that these animals are no longer held in captivity. You can help their work by voting with your wallet and refusing to support the confinement of whales and dolphins.
KIM BASINGER WINS FIGHT AGAINST
Aug 7, 2013
Last Updated: 4:43 AM ET
Actress Kim Basinger is celebrating after winning a major victory against SeaWorld bosses.
The longtime animal rights activist teamed up with leaders from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) to fight plans that would allow bosses at the Georgia Aquarium and its SeaWorld affiliates to import beluga whales from Russia.
Thanks to their actions and exposes, and the fallout from controversial new film Blackfish - about the lives of whales in captivity, officials at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have denied SeaWorld's latest request to stock their parks.
PETA spokesperson Moira Colley tells WENN, "This is a move that marks the beginning of the end for the wretched exhibition of enslaved whales.
"Thanks to movies such as Blackfish and PETA's lawsuit against SeaWorld for violating orcas' 13th Amendment right to freedom, people have learned of the rodeo-style capture of whales from their pods in the ocean.
"What's left is for the public to be further upset that captive adult whales are masturbated by their trainers to produce semen and artificially inseminated to produce young: another atrocity that must be stopped. And then finally, the abusement (sic) parks will close, and the whales and dolphins will be removed from their cement bathtubs and returned to the oceans, where they belong."
She adds, "Kim Basinger’s heartfelt plea to NOAA on behalf of the 18 belugas who were cruelly torn from their families in Russian waters helped ensure that the agency made the right decision today to deny permits to import the animals for a life in small tanks at US amusement parks like SeaWorld.
"PETA is grateful to her for helping see this campaign through."