Dear Canada, Please Let Mystic Aquarium Acquire MarineLand’s Belugas
Below is an open letter to the Canadian government about why they should allow Mystic Aquarium to acquire beluga whales from MarineLand Canada.
To whom it may concern,
My name is Jenna Deedy, and I am a freelance writer and volunteer educator for New England Aquarium who has worked with animals, primarily marine mammals since the age of 10. I am writing on behalf of the marine zoological community in favor of enabling Mystic Aquarium to acquire five aquarium-born beluga whales from MarineLand in Niagra Falls, Canada.
Last winter, just before the start of the COVID-19 Pandemic, Mystic Aquarium, a non-profit marine mammal facility that is said to be the only one of it’s kind in New England to house cetaceans, submitted a research permit to import five beluga whales from Marineland Canada, the facility where these animals were born at. Under this permit, the Mystic Aquarium family would not only be able to continue it’s ongoing research on belugas but also be allowed to possibly enable the animals to breed.
Last year, Canada decided to “ban” the keeping of cetaceans at Canadian facilities as a result of a series of demands from animal rights extremists with very-little-to-no experience with marine mammal training, husbandry, and care in zoological settings. Despite the ban, there are only two facilities that still house cetaceans in Canada today-MarineLand Canada and Vancouver Aquarium. However, the future of the animals that call these facilities home remains uncertain to this day. The only way these animals can leave the country is if they were to be moved to another facility in the United States, Europe, or Asia but S-203, the bill that was used to ban public display of cetaceans in human care, nearly makes these transfers almost impossible unless it was to an activist-operated sanctuary, which as of this writing, does not exist in Canada.
The beluga studies that are being conducted by Mystic Aquarium’s parent owner Sea Research Foundation are focused on advancing the knowledge of immune responses, health indicators, hearing and sound issues, diving physiology, and non-invasive study techniques. They hope that these studies can be useful in not only understanding beluga whale biology in general but also, to ensure the conservation of endangered wild beluga populations in Alaska’s Cook Inlet Sound and the St.Lawrence Estuary.
As a facility made specifically for belugas, Mystic Aquarium’s Arctic Coast habitat would be best suited for the five whales who would reside at the facility from MarineLand for the following reasons:
- The animals would be part of a grouping of animals, which is recommended for the housing of beluga whales and other cetacean species residing at AZA-accredited facilities. Yet, having a thriving beluga whale pod in human care would help the Mystic Aquarium staff quickly gain more knowledge about the biology of these Arctic-bound mammals.
- It would help advance the knowledge that is needed to learn more about key issues that affect wild beluga populations.
- Mystic’s outdoor beluga habitat is designed to provide more than just a research setting for both conservationists and researchers alike. It also provides naturalistic features and high water quality standards that help provide a healthy environment for the animals.
- The five MarineLand-born belugas would be able to live a far more comfortable life in a spacious habitat.
- Possible genetic diversity for the captive beluga population in the United States.
- The animals would go on to receive the best quality care from trainers and veterinarians alike along with the aquarium’s three other beluga residents, which includes two senior-aged animals.
- Moving these five animals from MarineLand Canada to Mystic Aquarium would address the overcrowding issue present in MarineLand's beluga facility.
- Moving those animals to a “sea sanctuary”, especially one that has yet to exist in Canada, is not an option.
I hope that by allowing the whales to move to Mystic, you are not only ensuring the well-being of the animals in question but also help promote the knowledge and understanding that is needed to ensure the survival of troubled wild beluga populations through zoo-based research.
Good tidings to you,