Georgia Aquarium Application to Import 18 Beluga Whales (File No. 17324)
The Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) allows for the removal from the wild or importation of marine mammals for the purpose of public display.
The Georgia Aquarium submitted an application for an MMPA permit on June 15, 2012. This application (File No. 17324) requests authorization to import 18 beluga whales from the Utrish Marine Mammal Research Station in Russia to the United States for the purpose of public display. These animals were previously captured from the Russian Sea of Okhotsk.
The animals would be imported and legally held by the Georgia Aquarium. Some of the animals would be transported to other U.S. partner facilities under breeding loan agreements. These facilities include Sea World of Florida, Sea World of Texas, Sea World of California, and Shedd Aquarium.
What is the status of the permit application?
We are currently reviewing comments received during the public comment period. No decision has been made on the application as of May 2013. We will update this web page once we make a final decision.
Draft Environmental Assessment (EA)
NOAA Fisheries has initially determined that an EA is the appropriate level of analysis to conduct under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) for this application. A draft EA has been prepared to assist the agency in making a decision by analyzing the potential draft EA [pdf] for adverse impacts on the species resulting from the importation of these beluga whales. The draft EA is available for review and comment concurrent with the application.
Public Comment Period
NOAA Fisheries’ regulations require that notices of all permit applications be published in the Federal Register for public review and comment for 30 days. Because of increased public interest, this application and the draft EA were made available for comment for 60 days. The public comment period closed on October 29, 2012.
Comments must have been submitted via (1) regulations.gov, identified by NOAA-NMFS-2012-0158, (2) mail to: Chief, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, NOAA Fisheries, 1315 East-West Highway, Room 13705, Silver Spring, MD 20910, or (3) fax: 301-713-0376 to Jennifer Skidmore. Comments sent by any other method, to any other address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, may not be considered.
All comments received are a part of the public record and will generally be posted for public viewing on www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying information (e.g., name, address, etc.) submitted voluntarily by the sender will be publicly accessible.
NOAA Fisheries held a public meeting to inform interested parties of the proposed import and solicit comments on the application and accompanying draft EA.
The meeting was held on October 12, 2012, from 2-5 p.m. at:
NOAA Science Center
1301 East-West Highway
Silver Spring, MD 20910
138 people attended the meeting, and 30 people provided oral comments.
- Application [pdf]
- Addendum to Application [pdf]
- Translated Russian Capture Permits [pdf]
- Federal Register Notice (77 FR 52694)
- Draft EA [pdf]
- Additional Information [pdf]
Beluga Inventory Report Summaries
- All U.S. Facilities [pdf]
- Georgia Aquarium [pdf]
- Sea World of Florida [pdf]
- Sea World of Texas [pdf]
- Sea World of California [pdf]
- Shedd Aquarium [pdf]
- Mystic Aquarium** [pdf]
U.S. Facility* Number of Belugas Currently Maintained Georgia Aquarium 4 Sea World of Florida 4 Sea World of Texas 8 Sea World of California 5 Shedd Aquarium 6 Mystic Aquarium** 4
*this list includes all U.S. facilities currently maintaining beluga whales
** None of the imported belugas are scheduled to be imported to the Mystic Aquarium, but animals may be transported to Mystic in the future.
Updated: May 7, 2013