WDC is delighted by the recent announcements from two major aquaria, National Aquarium (US) and Sea Life (worldwide), stating their strong opposition to collection of whales and dolphins from the wild for any purpose, including to supply public display facilities.
Both statements were sent to the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) in the US (the government body responsible for marine resources) in response to the recent proposed import into the US of 18 belugas whales captured from the wild in Russia.
“National Aquarium’s strong statement against any further capture and importation of dolphins from the wild is a huge and courageous step forward towards both a symbolic and real commitment to progressive change for the public industry,” stated Courtney Vail, WDC campaigns and programs manager. “True conservation calls for protection of these animals and the preservation of their populations in the wild, not captures for captivity.” In making this bold statement, National Aquarium has just stepped out as a leader by acknowledging what science and ethics has been telling us all along, and I hope that other enlightened aquariums will follow suit.”
These statements come just as the public comment period for Georgia Aquarium’s permit request to NMFS for the import of 18 belugas has ended. Because of the controversy surrounding this import request, NMFS held both a public meeting on October 12th where all interested parties could share their concerns and extended its public comment period until October 29th. WDC presented testimony opposing the permit as well as a statement from the NGO community against the imports, signed by 65 international conservation and animal welfare organizations.
Importing animals captured directly from the wild represents a significant departure from how US facilities have been acquiring whales and dolphins for public display over the past several decades. Dolphin populations in US public display facilities have, in recent years, been maintained through captive breeding, imports, and the retention of stranded animals considered unsuitable for release back into the wild.
“Just as Ocean Park Hong Kong’s decision last year to listen to public outcry and not to import belugas captured from the wild in Russia, National Aquarium and Sea Life have taken a leadership role in acknowledging the public’s desire to see an end to captures from the wild,” stated Chris Butler-Stroud, WDC’s chief executive. “We are encouraged that instead of continuing to fuel the international trade in whales and dolphins, these organizations are putting their foot down and signaling their willingness to break this vicious cycle of supply and demand. I am hopeful that other aquaria will step forward and leave these outdated practices behind them.”