The following represents a suggested letter to be sent by Oct. 29, 2012, to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to protest the Georgia Aquarium's planned importation of beluga whales. If you submit comments through the government agency's official website, please feel free to personalize them. You can find the agency's comment-writing tips here.
I respectfully ask that you not issue the permit for the importation of 18 beluga whales captured from the Russian Sea of Okhotsk to the Georgia Aquarium.
Beluga whales should not be held captive to perform demeaning tricks and to be exploited as objects of interactive programs in which they are treated like animals in petting zoos. They should be swimming free in the sea, where they are able to migrate vast distances to interact with hundreds of other belugas. Even at their best, man-made structures cannot replicate the vastness of the sea nor provide the socialization these mammals need.
The importation of more beluga whales to enhance the genetic diversity of captive whales is a mistake. Captive beluga breeding programs' track record of live births and surviving calves is dismal. Despite the sophisticated technology and veterinarians available to the Georgian Aquarium, the only calf ever born in the facility since the incorporation of its beluga whale breeding program died after one week.
Nine out of the 18 belugas were females taken from the sea before they were sexually mature, which could very well affect future beluga populations in the area. Female belugas don't reach sexual maturity until they are 5 to 9 years old. Females only give birth to single calves (twins on rare occasions) every two to three years, on average, which accounts for a slow recovery of population even when the wild beluga pods are undisturbed.
Please do not issue the permit for 18 beluga whale imports to Georgia Aquarium.