Animal rights group sues US government to prevent aquarium from acquiring 5 beluga whales
An animal rights group filed a lawsuit against the federal government on Thursday in an effort to stop the Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut from acquiring five new beluga whales.
The nonprofit group Friends of Animals filed the suit against U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and the National Marine Fisheries, claiming the permit granted to the Mystic Aquarium violates the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the National Environmental Policy Act.
The aquarium already has three beluga whales and the largest outdoor habitat for whales in the U.S., a 750,000-gallon enclosure. Beluga whales are found in the Arctic Ocean and subarctic waters, according to the World Wildlife Fund.
The species is considered “near threatened.”
“Beluga whales do not belong in captivity,” the lawsuit reads. “They are highly social and intelligent animals who roam large distances in the wild. Captivity robs them of their most basic needs. Belugas are subject to extreme emotional and physical suffering in captivity.
The five-year permit claims the aquarium seeks the animals for non-invasive research, which means the whales would not be bred or allowed to be displayed for entertainment purposes at the aquarium.
Mystic Aquarium says on its website that it’s “a leader in beluga research, care and behaviors.”
Neither the aquarium nor the Department of Commerce immediately responded to inquiries from The Hill.