A request by the Georgia Aquarium, in Atlanta, to import 18 beluga whales for use as attractions for marine parks around the nation has drawn the ire of animal rights advocates, according to the New York Times.
In a federal import permit application, the Georgia Aquarium says it and other marine parks need the Arctic whales for captive breeding efforts, education, and research. The capture and relocation of Beluga whales was halted two decades ago, amid concerns over the ethics of removing intelligent and social animals from their families and native environment.
The beluga, which the Times calls “a facially expressive whale with a distinctive white hue,” should be left alone, argues People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, in Norfolk, Va., and several academic researchers.
The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will hold a hearing on the matter Friday in Maryland.