Tag Archives: captivity

Maris died after being an experiment in life and death

The death of beluga whale Maris came as a shock to us all, including the Georgia Aquarium.  But the Georgia Aquarium knows what it rarely shouts from its tank-covering rooftops:  the beluga whale captivity industry is dying, just as surely as are “its” beluga whales.

Dying it is.  But becoming “extinct”?  Whether calculated to mislead the American public or not, the Georgia Aquarium has used the word “extinction”, generally known to characterize wild populations only, to describe the beluga whales in captivity.  It is obvious that this is a misuse of the term, but it is, however, true that the captive beluga whale industry is declining and dying, along with the 35 or so beluga whales now held in U.S. aquaria, and the only saving grace for this industry is, apparently, the influx of wild blood.

One need look no further for evidence of this industry’s death than the Georgia Aquarium’s own statement.

Because of the extraordinary, long-term care beluga whales receive at accredited zoological organizations like Georgia Aquarium, this birth is significant as it is the first viable calf to be born from parents who were born in human care. Maris was born at the New York Aquarium in 1994, and the father, Beethoven, was born at SeaWorld San Antonio in 1992.

Here the Georgia Aquarium revealed that there has not yet been a beluga calf successfully born in captivity who was born to parents who were both born in captivity.  I hope you got that.  Not one.  Not a single successful birth to a captive-born couple.

We’ll tell you the truth now. Even though the Georgia Aquarium was elated to announce that Maris’ second calf was considered “viable” – a significant milestone in the ongoing “experiment” to figure out how to breed captive beluga whale calves – the calf died after only 26 days in the tank at the Georgia Aquarium.  In the run-up to both of Maris’ calves’ births, the Georgia Aquarium spent far more time pointing out the high mortality rate, even among wild beluga whales, for first-born calves, and, as far as I can tell, told the public this significant factoid (that not once had a calf born of two captive-born beluga whales survived) only after they thought they had one who would survive.  So, why the consistent omission of this significant fact?  Notably, they did not mention it when the calf died, demurring to the “statistical probability of survival.”  Is this just another example of the “smoke and mirrors” that Judge Totenberg observed on the part of the Georgia Aquarium (Georgia Aquarium v Pritzker, at page 98)?

Maris giving birth on May 10, 2015, to her second female calf, considered viable. Neither are alive today.

Maris giving birth on May 10, 2015, at the Georgia Aquarium to her second female calf, who was considered viable. Neither are alive today.

Nowhere in the recent statements to the press does the Georgia Aquarium acknowledge this significant fact.

So, what to do? Capture! Import! It is little wonder, then, that the Georgia Aquarium took the unprecedented initiative to spearhead an effort to import 18 wild-caught belugas into the United States to add to the U.S. broodstock.  Eighteen: more than all the  wild-caught beluga whales currently-held in the United States.  To allow more successful breeding.  To maintain an industry.  To continue to feed the public the notion that it has a “right” to see them in tanks.  To “love” them so much that visitors will once again grace the turnstiles of the aquarium, season pass or no.

But right?  Entitlement?  As correctly and succinctly summarized by Judge Amy Totenberg in her Order in the case of Georgia Aquarium v Pritzker, at page 76:

In addition, Georgia Aquarium’s arguments presume that — contrary to the express purpose of the MMPA — the limited exceptions for public display and scientific research permits in section 1374 opened the floodgates for unfettered importation of marine mammals.  Nowhere does the MMPA “allow[] for the
continuing import of marine mammals for public display in the United States” or the unfettered right to such importation.  (Doc. 55-1 at 49) (emphasis in original).

The Georgia Aquarium knows that the beluga whale captive industry is dying in the United States, just as surely as have all the calves born to two captive born parents.  And now, the Georgia Aquarium has been schooled that it has no “unfettered right” to grab wild beluga whales to prop up the display industrym and it should stop sending any such signals to the public.

The future of the captive beluga whale industry is dying because United States aquariums hold only a handful of wild-caught beluga whales, and of these, only three are males.

  • Ferdinand, M, SeaWorld San Diego, caught 1975
  • Naluark, M. Mystic Aquarium, caught 1992
  • Imaq, M, SeaWorld Texas, caught 1990
  • Natasha, F, SeaWorld Texas, caught 1984
  • Mauyak, F, John G. Shedd Aquarium, caught 1984
  • Martha, F, SeaWorld Texas, caught 1988
  • Crissy, F, SeaWorld Texas, caught 1988
  • Allua, F, SeaWorld Texas, caught 1985
  • Kela, F, Mystic Aquarium, caught 1985
  • Naya, F, John G. Shedd Aquarium, caught 1992

This is certainly not the stable of studs and broodmares that the aquarium industry needs to build a genetically diverse, and therefore, robust, population of captive beluga whales, and the industry knows this.  For this reason, and perhaps others that only it knows, the Georgia Aquarium tried to import those 18 wild-caught beluga whales.  But its effort has failed, in failing to demonstrate that its import would not negatively impact the wild populations from which it may have hoped to extract fresh genes and better odds at reproduction.

It is impossible to speak about a dying industry without also coming to terms with the fates of 35 or so captive beluga whales in the United States.  As those in support of the Georgia Aquarium often say, “whales die.”  You just won’t hear me say, as they have done, “that’s life; get over it.”  I grieve for both the living and the dying captives.  But in particular, I grieve for the mothers who are used as part of a failing experiment to successfully breed a captive beluga whale born of captive-born parents.

So, how many more times must female captive-born beluga whales experience the death of a calf, being used as part of the aquarium industry’s Experiment in Breeding, before the public says, “enough is enough?”  Will the death of Maris and her two calves be enough?

I do not know if it will, but it should.

Rest in peace, Maris.

Rest in peace, Maris.

Rest in peace, Maris.

Georgia Aquarium accuses NMFS of “bobbing and weaving” while “cooking the books”

The tone of yesterday’s hearing on the question of whether the federal government erred in its decision to deny a permit to the Georgia Aquarium to import 18 wild-caught beluga whales was “educated”.   As counsel for both parties, the Georgia Aquarium and the Department of Justice on behalf of the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), and intervenors Animal Welfare Institute, Whale and Dolphin Conservation and Cetacean Society International, made their cases in 45-minute arguments, Federal District Court Judge Amy Totenberg, after congratulating all participants on the quality of the briefs, demonstrated that she had identified what she considered lingering questions, as she honed aspects of the arguments that would be important in her determination.

The Georgia Aquarium fights to import wild beluga whales.

The Georgia Aquarium fights to import wild beluga whales.

The Georgia Aquarium opened its strongly-worded argument by claiming that NMFS’ decision, in denying the permit, was arbitrary and capricious and not in accordance with law by, in a “feast of failures,” having invented new standards in makings its determination, having manipulated data, which it suggested amounted to “cooking the books,” and having “changed its mind” without explanation about the issuance of the permit. The Georgia Aquarium added the claim that NMFS, in its decision, was amending the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) by “extraterritorial application” of another country’s laws.

In a nutshell, the Georgia Aquarium sounded as “whiny” as a child on a school playground, claiming that it wasn’t picked for the winning team.

Much of each Party’s time was spent responding to Judge Totenberg’s questions about data and how it was used by NMFS in its determination. The Georgia Aquarium argued that NMFS had erred by not considering the Potential Biological Removal (PBR) Level, which is defined as the maximum number of animals, not including natural mortalities, that may be removed from a marine mammal stock while allowing that stock to reach or maintain its optimum sustainable population. It wondered aloud that if NMFS did not use PBR as its “standard” in making its determination, then what standard it did use and welcomed being “thrown into a briar patch” discussion of standards. Judge Totenberg observed that this “if not this, what” approach was a Draconian framing of the question and recognized that the PBR does not have the status of the “sole litmus test” that the Georgia Aquarium seemed to be “edging toward.”  Judge Totenberg observed that the PBR is one of several tools used by the Agency and noted that, in contrast to the Georgia Aquarium’s assertion, NMFS had, in fact, considered PBR.

Beluga whales captured and held in tanks in Russia awaiting their "disposition."  Photo credit M. Lanovoy

Beluga whales captured and held in tanks in Russia awaiting their “disposition.” Photo credit M. Lanovoy

NMFS responded by recounting data that showed that the PBR had, in fact, been exceeded, but urged the Judge not to make her determination upon this one finding, because there was other evidence that supported its decision to deny the permit. NMFS had found, for instance, evidence of human-caused beluga mortalities due to subsistence hunting in the Sakhalin and Shantar Bays, bycatch during fishing operations, and the live capture process itself that were not properly taken into account by the Georgia Aquarium’s application. It also pointed to significant uncertainty in the data that constrained the ability to develop a meaningful trend over the twenty year time period that it evaluated. Further, NMFS stated that the PBR is not something that NMFS normally uses in reviewing permit applications but is, instead, a quantity that the Agency is directed to prepare for evaluation of United States stocks of marine mammals.

As to whether the Agency had changed its mind, Justice recounted that there were many different levels within the Agency involved in reviewing the permit applications and the significant comments that were provided by the public during the comment period, and that the Georgia Aquarium is in error in suggesting that there was a “mind” to have been “changed” until the final permit decision.

As to making its decision based upon other nation’s laws and whether this amounted to amending the MMPA, Justice answered easily that it was the act of “import” that was under consideration in light of standards that must be applied under U.S. law, but reiterated that the actions of other entities, in this case a Russian beluga-capturing operation, and whether those actions would place beluga populations at risk, were issues being asked and answered.

The technical nature of the data is beyond the scope of this writing because, frankly, I do not understand it all. But I will rest easily knowing that the decision will be made by a judge who will not fall for assertions of “book-cooking” and “bobbing and weaving,” but will make her decision on the basis of the record that she noted was argued well and long by both sides.

Or at least one.

Judge Totenberg could render her decision in as little as two months.

Are two calf deaths enough, Georgia Aquarium?

Another captive-born baby beluga has died at the Georgia Aquarium, and the Georgia Aquarium welcomes your “positive thoughts and support.”

Georgia Aquarium beluga calf died

Follow the bouncing focus: on the Georgia Aquarium.  The baby’s death is a loss “for the entire Aquarium.”

While I do not doubt that the Georgia Aquarium staff and other “experts” worked around-the-clock at trying to save this baby, pardon me if I am less than likely to send my condolences and kind words to an institution that bred two beluga whales for the sole purpose of building its stable of slaves.

But lest Maris’ loss be confused with human couples who continue to attempt to have a child, even in the face of miscarriage, let me say to you, do not go there.

I repeat, do not go there.

Maris shares nothing, as in, zippo, zilch, nada, with a human couple who chooses to attempt to bring a child into the world, and who has the full suite of choices in giving that child the best life possible.  Maris and Beethoven, who the Georgia Aquarium reports conceived naturally, had no such choices.

Maris didn’t have a choice in the 25 to 40 minutes per day that the baby nursed.  She didn’t have a choice when staff stood between her and her baby.

Georgia Aquarium Maris beluga calf dies

Unnamed baby girl at the Georgia Aquarium. Photo from AJC.

She didn’t have a choice in the formula that the Georgia Aquarium fed her baby, the one that “mimicked” beluga milk.

Maris didn’t have a choice in anything at all, and neither would the baby girl, had she survived.

Make no mistake, Georgia Aquarium.  Those who are opposed to captivity are grieving for Maris’ loss, but we do not grieve for yours.

What you can do:

Stand with us at Empty the Tanks to call for an end to the institution of marine mammal captivity.

  • When: Saturday, June 6, 2015; noon to 3pm
  • Where: Georgia Aquarium, 225 Baker St., Atlanta, GA

Thankful that the 2013/2014 Taiji Drive Hunt Season has ended

2013/2014 has been a horrid, but “point-tipping”, Taiji Dolphin Drive Hunt season.

Much gratitude to the heroes that are the Sea Shepherd Cove Guardians, led by campaign leader Melissa Sehgal, who on a daily basis documented for all the world to see the truth of the hunt, the facts of the hunt, the CHOICES of those who support the hunt: not only the fishermen who conduct the hunt, but also the legal system that provides a “color of law” to shield the hunt, and the captivity industry in any country that provides the financial incentive for the hunt.

Much gratitude to the press with special thanks to Jane Velez-Mitchell and CNN, Reuters and other media outlets who covered the horrific nature of the hunt and made the connection between the hunt and the captivity industry.

Many thanks to the celebrities who took a clear stand against dolphin hunting and captivity, focusing on both Taiji and SeaWorld, including the very special Sam Simon, Russell Simmons, Susan Sarandon, David Crosby, Shannen Doherty, Barenaked Ladies, Joan Jett and Heart.

So proud of the individual activists who daily write letters and emails, make phone calls, stand on the front lines to protest, and use social media to spread the message: the Voice of the Orcas, the Blackfish Brigade, Sandy McElhaney, Paige Nelson, and so many others – thousands – that I could not mention them all without leaving too many out.

Finally, much pride and gratitude for the statement of U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy, whose tweet heard ’round the world gives significant hope that the world conversation has been forever changed by this season.

U.S. Ambassador Caroline Kennedy

The Tweet Heard ‘Round the World

Be part of the solution to end dolphin hunting and captivity.  Join the communities on Facebook and Twitter to find opportunities to join the movement, to put your voice and your feet to work to free these creatures from exploitation by humans and to restore them their birthright.

Do not go to a dolphin park, aquarium or swim-with program anywhere in the world.

 

The “Hope” of the dolphin captivity industry

While not news, a story reported this week in the Tampa Tribune Online reminded us of the ways that monies move around to support the institutions dedicated to dolphin captivity.  The story recognizes that the movie industry often demands, or perhaps expects, tax incentives to arrive in “your town” to film its highly lucrative product.  These incentives do not appear out of thin air.  They are accomplished by funneling the hard-earned money of taxpayers to support selected corporate endeavors.

About midway through the article, is a recognition of how this was accomplished to support both the Clearwater Marine Aquarium and the makers of the upcoming film, A Dolphin Tale 2.

The movie sequel “Dolphin Tale 2” faced a similar dilemma last year. Producers wanted to film in Clearwater but tax credit money was an obstacle.

So backers persuaded the Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott to sign off on $5 million in state money for the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. The aquarium turned over the money to producer Alcon Entertainment.

It isn’t clear whether the real shame here is that the aquarium industry is being supported, or, rather, whether it is that the Clearwater Marine Aquarium (CMA), in particular, is.

Winter who will forever reside amid the noise and crowds of a movie

Winter who will forever reside amid the noise and crowds incited by a movie

The shame is that the CMA and Hollywood use Winter, a dolphin whose tail fluke was so damaged by being caught in a crab trap that her fluke was removed, to make money. It really isn’t complicated.  Winter pulls on the heart-strings of people who rightly feel compassion for this unique, handicapped dolphin.  Of course she does.  All dolphins should.  But rather than have our compassion support an industry whose primary goal is to maintain captivity, we should open our eyes and find those institutions whose goal is to end the notion that captivity teaches us anything like respect for the wild ones.  That the CMA is willing to pass the $5 million to the film-maker should tell you something.

The new movie, paid for in part by that $5 million in taxpayer monies, will focus on yet another dolphin, this one named Hope, who was reportedly rescued three years ago as a baby after she stranded in the Indian River.  The rescue of stranded dolphins is a noble undertaking.  But rescue should come with the remainder of the “Rs” : Rescue, Rehabilitate and Release.

But one should consider that the same industry that wants us to believe its commitment to all three of the Rs, has seen – and been a proximal cause  for – the deaths of  91% of orcas captured since 1961 by and for their industry.  The numbers of dolphins who have died in captivity is mind-boggling when one considers that their captivity only became significant during this human generation’s lifetime.  In its defense, the CMA has released a significant number of dolphins that it has rescued. Far more, however, have died at CMA, likely because once stranded, the odds against successful rehabilitation of dolphins are low.

But it is also undeniable that Winter’s “uniqueness” is being used as capital for those who charge admission, whether to aquariums or to movies.  So, is Hope also “unique”?  Does Hope have an infirmity that prevented her release to a wild Indian River pod? Or does she, like Winter, merely “‘have that . . . something particularly interesting and readily visible’ to keep attracting visitors?

The fact remains that each dolphin is unique.  While we may not know their real names, it has been demonstrated that dolphins do know each other by something that we call “names.”  In the meantime, we call them “Winter”, “Hope”, “Tilikum”, “Lolita”, “Shaka” and we use whatever “uniqueness” we can invent via our language to justify their retention in the captive quarters of concrete tanks.

The “hope” that we should have for the dolphins is not found in a movie, the aquariums that those Hollywood productions support, or even in the successful rescue of a flukeless individual.  The real hope for the dolphins is in their freedom from captivity and in safeguarding their passage through life in an uncontaminated habitat.

While those who would put tax monies on the production of a movie, perhaps those tax monies should be utilized to find the reason that dolphins are dying in record numbers in Florida’s Indian River, to clean up the mess that has been made by years of discharge into that water body, and to stop the polluted run-off from pesticide- and fertilizer-enhanced agriculture-water.

Instead of being hope for the dolphin captivity industry, that would provide real hope for the dolphins.

Dolphin in Indian River. Photo Credit: discoverelc.org

Dolphin in Indian River. Photo Credit: discoverelc.org

To learn more about the captivity industry, go see Blackfish (available on Netflix, iTunes and Amazon), winner of the 2014 Genesis Award for outstanding reporting and creative portrayals of animal-protection issues.

For JerryLee.  Thank you for your unwavering support for the real welfare of dolphins.

For Jiyu, Faith, Hope and all the captives of the aquarium industry

Humans have created an unnatural world in which they, or some of them, think they can tell others who they are. It just isn’t true that humans have that power or that right: others aren’t food, aren’t clothing, aren’t entertainment, aren’t research projects. They are who they are. They are their birthright, not some small fraction of it that we say we have the power to allow them.

This is why Jiyu is so important to me. Jiyu was an individual. Jiyu was a failure in the human machine. Jiyu didn’t do what we told her to do. And Jiyu died because of the arrogance of man, that he thought he could control her.

I think of her and honor her life every day, as do others who worked to try to save her and continue to work to save the rest. Those on the ground working to save Jiyu were Heather Hill, Rosie Kunneke, Martyn Stewart and others whose names I do not know.

Heather Hill, whose image of Jiyu inspires me every day, has made this beautiful reminder of that very principle: The All-One – many call that God – tells them who they are, not we newcomers to this vast and wondrous Universe. Thank you, Heather, for this perfect tribute to those who would not go gentle into that dark, not good, night of captivity.

For Jiyu. Forever.

Open letter to Gretchen Wilson: our choices make a difference

This HARLAN COUNTY gal (which I reckon qualifies as good as any as being a Redneck Woman) knows that some artists will play at venues that don’t reflect the ethic of respect for animals to fulfill their birthright.  Other artists, however, make choices that lift us all up higher than the exploitation and abuse of withholding that right.

When an artist or performer makes the CHOICE to play at SeaWorld, she is making a CHOICE that perpetuates and supports a company and a system that misleads the public, that misleads our children into thinking that captivity is an acceptable 2014 institution.  We “didn’t know no better” in 1964 when SeaWorld was founded.  We do know better now, although not everyone has been involved in the issue of captivity enough to come to their own, and very personal, realization.

Gretchen Wilson's choice.

Gretchen Wilson’s choice: taking her FANS down the garden path that leads to the witch’s cabin in the woods

When an artist makes the CHOICE to listen to the company that pioneered captivity and which the rest of the world parrots when they open new aquariums in their countries, this is a downfall in a moment of CHOICE, and it leads so many others who then act out their own bolstering of that outdated and unethical system by spending their dollars to keep alive something that should be retired.

Gretchen Wilson relies upon having fans to follow her CHOICE to play at SeaWorld

Gretchen Wilson relies upon having fans to follow her CHOICE to play at SeaWorld

Every CHOICE we make today builds the future.  And Ms. Wilson is building a future that is unethical, inhumane and unsustainable.

This isn’t about FANS or NOT-FANS, Ms. Wilson; this is about whether you are serving as a point of mirroring ethical values or merely profit-at-any-cost.  Either is your CHOICE. And because of your career, when you make a choice that results in the suffering and death of untold numbers of marine mammals, you take others with you down that unethical garden path to the witch’s cabin in the woods.  Choosing to ignore the fact that captivity is a morbid experience for innocent creatures who have been denied their birth-right is, after all, one of the choices you had before you.

Our choices makes a difference.  The future will hold us all to account for our choices, including those who, at the moment of choice, made the one you just did.

Ms. Wilson says that she did her research.  We obviously don’t know what that effort entailed.  But she told her fans that she had, and for some or even for many, that will be good enough for them to walk through the ticket turnstyle at SeaWorld.  This, aside from the travesty of captivity itself, is the real failure in the act of choice which was served up to her “fans”.

For one’s own research, a very good starting point is watching (not hearing about) the award-winning film, BlackfishIf you have not yet seen Blackfish, it will be aired again on CNN this Sunday, February 9, 2014, at 9pm and 11pm ET.  Over 1 million people watched it when CNN first aired it over about a two-week period in October and November 2013.

Because everything is about choice, do your own research, and do it well.  Imagining that a profit-center has your or our or even their best interests at heart is giving up your choice to them.

More information for one’s own research:

A Day in the life of the Captive Beluga Whale

Most people are not as familiar with the beluga whale as they are with dolphins or orcas.  What people will recognize when they see video of beluga whales is their intelligence, their awareness.

I thought I would gather a collection of beluga videos so that people could have a sense of what life is like for a beluga whale in captivity.

First, we demean them by using them as props for our shenanigans, whether it is a wedding reception, a cheesy wedding proposal, a corporate banquet, a Christmas or Pride party, or backdrop for a mariachi band.

And here are a few moments with a beluga identified as Juno. He is not happy, he is exhibiting aggressive behavior. This is, apparently, no surprise to the aquarium worker, who laughs it off to the visitor. That, my friend, is despicable. They know the whale is unhappy, and the nervous laughter tells it all.

Or here at SeaWorld San Diego, Ferdinand and Nanuq are exploited for touches and kisses. I heard some whale education: saltwater is apparently not good for belugas, according the SeaWorld expert. And it is apparently critical that we understand that belugas feel like a hard-boiled egg.

And then there are parents who don’t recognize when an animal is being teased.


Beluga whales do not belong in tanks.

The Georgia Aquarium is spearheading a dramatic reversal of U.S. practice and policy to import 18 wild-caught Russian beluga whales into the United States to add to the current captive population of 34.  Whales that were part of stable families and community groups until they were wrenched apart and taken into captivity.  And for what?  Mariachi bands, weddings, jazz evenings, kisses, phone teases? Which appear to be typical days, as good as it gets in a day in the life of a captive beluga whale.

Sign the petition to say no to this effort at importation of wild-caught beluga whales.  And stay tuned:  soon the import permit application will be published in the Federal Register for public comment.

Don’t support any more days like these.

The Most Commented-on Federal Register Notice – No more wild-caught belugas

I’m presaging a headline that I’d like us to read, “The most comments ever received on a Federal Register Notice.”  What Federal Register Notice do I mean?  Well, it has not yet been published, but if you’re reading this blog, you will hear about it, either here or from Candace Calloway Whiting, Elizabeth Batt, Save Misty the Dolphin, Free the Atlanta 11, or others whose blogs or articles I have not yet had the privilege to read.

Stop Georgia Aquarium from importing wild-caught beluga whales from Save Misty the Dolphin

Stop Georgia Aquarium from importing wild-caught beluga whales, photo from Save Misty the Dolphin

Artist for the Ocean has created a Facebook event, so if you do FB, this is a central place for info, petitions and events relevant to the beluga importation issue.

Candace, if I may be so bold as to address her that familiarly, has already provided  information regarding the process of commenting on a permit application.  But I just want to add “a few words,” because, well, I have this view that blogging is useful.

A few words:

  • Have you ever wondered how to comment on a proposed regulation or permit issued by the Federal Government?
  • Haven’t you ever wanted to participate in this process to which the public – well, except for the lobbyists – often pays little attention?
  • Wouldn’t you like to write a reasoned comment to the Federal government and see the government’s response, in writing, to your question or concern published in the Federal Register?

Me, too!

One of the really cool things about our Federal Government is that, in most contexts, it must consider and respond to the public’s comments that are timely submitted, in this case, during a public comment period.  If the comments are reasoned and reasonable comments, the government’s job of responding must be similarly reasoned and reasonable.

As it so happens, there’s a public comment period coming up regarding the Georgia Aquarium’s attempt to import 18 wild beluga whales into the United States for the captivity industry.  We won’t know when, as Candace’s article summarized, until the Georgia Aquarium’s permit application is published in the Federal Register.

Why this is so  important is that it has been a verrrrrrrry long time since an American aquarium imported wild-caught whales or dolphins into the United States.  Sure, the Georgia Aquarium imported their first two belugas from Mexico, but that was a genuine attempt to provide relief to two whales who, reportedly, did not live in ideal conditions.  The importation of those whales reportedly improved their individual chance of survival and their quality of life and access to medical care.

When, however, a whale is a member of a stable, wild community, living in its home migration path in the ocean, and we choose to pluck it out of the ocean – at significant risk that the whale will be injured or worse – well, that is a horse of a very different color, don’t you think?

So stay tuned, put on your thinking cap, peruse the NOAA website, and get ready to make this permit application the most commented-on, ever.

In the meantime, sign the petition and on July 21, come stand at the Georgia Aquarium to say at their front door, “In my country, we do not import wild-caught cetaceans.”

Georgia Aquarium wants this beluga whale to live in a tank

A free beluga whale, in the Arctic where it should stay, photo by John Ford. The Georgia Aquarium wants 18 of these free beluga whales to live in a tank.

Translation software for the cetacean captivity industry – Georgia Aquarium announces intention to capture belugas

While doing research on the effort by the Georgia Aquarium to import more wild-caught beluga whales, and to increase the population of the belugas whales in the United States by more than 50 percent, I have found that some of the translation software out there results in pretty much garbage sometimes.  I noticed this, too, during efforts to stop the dolphin hunt in Taiji, Japan.

Baby beluga whale, now at the Alaska Sea Life Center

A baby beluga whale was recently rescued, but this doesn’t help enough with the captivity industry’s gene pool problem

So, it is with some not small relief that I tell you about a translation software that I think finally works.  I want to show you the translation of the Georgia Aquarium’s blog about its intentions to import 18 beluga whales into the United States, which it published two days after the first news broke.

Here goes, the Georgia Aquarium’s text in italics, followed by the translation software’s version in bold text.

Georgia Aquarium Leads Conservation Efforts for Beluga Whales

Transl Georgia Aquarium Leads Effort to Import more Wild-caught Captive Beluga Whales

Georgia Aquarium is taking a leadership role in the zoological community to conserve and protect beluga whales everywhere. The beluga whale is listed on the IUCN as a “near-threatened” species. Through the study and observation of belugas in human care, we continue to gain a better understanding of their biology, physiology and diseases that affect them, all with the goal of learning how we can help those populations in their natural habitats. Georgia Aquarium is proud to take a bold step to ensure the care and understanding of belugas in human care and in the wild. We recognize the immense knowledge and education that the study of these animals can provide, and we aim to inspire the public to conserve and protect the species.

Transl:  The Georgia Aquarium leads a worldwide effort to increase the captive beluga whale population and wants the public to believe that it has something, anything to do with conservation of the species in the wild.

Transl:  We once did the right thing by retrieving two very distressed beluga whales from horrid conditions, but now we want to do more than rescue belugas.  We want to charge $169.95 for the honor of having an experience with an animal that was ripped from its wild life, its life with its family.  And so we need more whales.  If we don’t capture the beluga whales, all the beluga whales in the wild will disappear.  The research that we just paid for showed that taking more beluga whales from the wild will not negatively impact the wild populations.

Me here: I’ll just point out very quietly from the corner, that those last two statements cannot logically coexist.  I don’t think Billsy or the Georgia Aquarium understand that.  Really? Okay, so I’m not surprised.  I knew that they didn’t understand their impact on cetaceans, but now I also know that they don’t understand even logic.  Don’t you need logic for scientific research?  Jus sayin’.

As part of an initiative to maintain a sustainable population of belugas in human care, Georgia Aquarium supported an important research project to learn more about a population of animals from which whales have been collected by Russian scientists in the Sea of Okhotsk in northern Russia. This extensive body of research has been reviewed by our peers and validated by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, also known as IUCN. In full accordance with the Animal Welfare Act, U.S. and international law, the bylaws of the zoological associations to which Georgia Aquarium belongs, Georgia Aquarium will acquire beluga whales which originated from the Sea of Okhotsk. In its review of the research, the IUCN found this acquisition will have zero negative impact on the native population.

Transl: We need the population of captive beluga whales in the United States to be stable and growing.  We paid a lot of money to acquire research that would show that if we take more belugas from the wild, we won’t hurt the wild population’s stability.  These laws give credibility to our position, but I hope no one reads them and finds out that we pretty much set our own standards, and the IUCN is pretty much toothless, so who cares what it says anyway.

We have applied for a permit to bring these animals to the United States. After we welcome the animals to the U.S., the whales will make their home at Georgia Aquarium and other leading accredited aquariums and zoological parks in North America and will become part of a collective breeding program among these institutions known as a Species Survival Plan. Georgia Aquarium is proud to take this bold step in beluga conservation and is excited to show our new belugas the same love and care that we give to all of our animals.

Transl: We really, really want to increase the number of captive beluga whales.

Please watch as Georgia Aquarium Chief Zoological Officer William Hurley explains more about our beluga conservation project.

Transl: Please watch our carefully scripted attempt to dig out of the hole caused by the AJC article.

You know the moment in The Wizard of Oz where the Cowardly Lion shares his vision of what he would do as King of the Forest?  Well, the translation software reveals that my entire blog can be translated into, “I’d wrap ’em up in celephant.”

And to help stop this atrocity before it goes further, please sign the petition:

Namaste.