Permit Application to Import 5 Beluga Whales for Scientific Research (File No. 22629, Mystic Aquarium)


Marine Mammal Protection Act
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Affected Species
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Mystic Aquarium requests to import five (5) captive-born beluga whales for scientific research. The five whales would be imported from Marineland of Canada (Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada) to Mystic Aquarium (Mystic, Connecticut, United States). The beluga whales were born at Marineland of Canada and are the progeny of beluga whales that originated from the depleted Sakhalin Bay-Nikolaya Bay-Amur River stock.

The purpose of the research would be to contribute knowledge and inform the management and recovery of wild beluga whales, including endangered and depleted populations. The proposed research would occur year-round at Mystic Aquarium. If deemed in the best interest of an individual imported beluga whale or the captive U.S. beluga whale population for social, health, or welfare reasons, Mystic Aquarium proposes to move animals to Georgia Aquarium, which has agreed to participate in the research studies. The proposed research includes investigations on: 

  • The neuroimmunological response to environmental and anthropogenic stressors.
  • The development of novel non-invasive techniques to assess health in free-ranging and stranded beluga whales.
  • The hearing and physiological response to anthropogenic sound.
  • Morphometrics to inform photogrammetry studies.
  • Diving physiology.
  • Microbiome.
  • Behavior and reproduction.
  • Testing of prototype telemetry devices and cameras before deployment on wild beluga whales.

Announcement of Public Hearing

NOAA Fisheries held a public hearing related to this application on November 18, 2019.  A transcript of the hearing is provided below under Supporting Materials.

Public Comments

The public comment period ended on December 2, 2019. Public comments may be viewed via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal and entering NOAA-NMFS-2019-0113 in the keyword search.

Last updated by Office of Protected Resources on 12/05/2019