ATLANTA — The National Marine Fisheries Service announced Tuesday that it has denied an application by the Georgia Aquarium to import beluga whales from Russia for public display.
Zoos and aquariums can apply for fisheries service permits from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to import or capture marine mammals. The aquarium applied in June 2012 to import 18 whales as part of a five-year, multimillion dollar initiative aimed at improving the genetic diversity of belugas living in American captivity.
Georgia Aquarium spokeswoman Meghann Gibbons said in a statement that aquarium officials were deeply disappointed in the decision. Aquarium officials presented a thorough, researched-based application that met all requirements of the Marine Mammal Protection Act, and showed that importing them wouldn’t have a negative impact on the beluga population in Russia, Gibbons said.