An animals rights group is suing to stop a Connecticut aquarium from acquiring five more beluga whales for research, saying they would be harmed by the trip from Canada and by being torn from long-term relationships with others of their species. Friends of Animals, based in Connecticut, filed suit this week in US District Court against Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and the National Marine Fisheries Service, which approved the research permit that allows Mystic Aquarium to import the belugas from Marineland in Niagara Falls, Ontario. Mystic Aquarium is already home to three beluga whales, known for their white color and vocal sounds. In Mystic, they live in a 750,000-gallon outdoor habitat that the aquarium calls the largest in the US, the AP reports. The five whales in Canada were born in captivity.
Aquarium officials say the permit will allow them to conduct noninvasive research vital to helping boost endangered and depleted beluga whale populations. Friends of Animals is suing over the granting of the research permit, which the group claims violates the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the National Environmental Protection Act because government officials did not adequately address the potential harm to the belugas of being moved. Such a trip, by trucks and planes, "emotionally and psychologically scars them," the group said. A lawyer for Friends of Animals, added, "Not only is it unprecedented for the government to issue a permit to import members of a depleted species of belugas for purported research, it is illegal." The research on belugas can be done in the wild, Friends of Animals said.
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