Connecticut-based Mystic Aquarium has confirmed that another beluga whale transferred to the facility from Ontario-based Marineland has died. Another beluga is gravely ill, though Mystic has not confirmed whether that animal is also one of the five who were recently transferred from Marineland.
Unfortunately, this tragic news does not come as a surprise. When a beluga named Havok died in August of 2021, only three months after his arrival at Mystic, we learned that a beluga named Jetta (who was also transferred from Marineland) was also extremely sick and undergoing treatment.
This second tragic death illustrates yet again that Canada’s Minister of Fisheries and Oceans should investigate the conditions of the transfer of belugas last May, and how it came to be that these five whales were represented as healthy and fit for travel when officials from Mystic have now conceded that at least some of the animals were suffering from health problems at the time. Canada recently introduced new permitting requirements for the export of captive whales and dolphins, and those requirements are clearly in need of improvement.
This tragedy also underscores the need for federal and provincial action to protect the health and well-being of animals held at Marineland. As of its 2021 season, the facility had approximately 50 whales and dolphins in its care, although it’s not clear how many of those animals may have died this winter while Marineland is closed. There have been numerous recent reports of beluga deaths at the notorious aquarium.
Indeed, the five belugas who were transferred in May included three animals chosen to replace three other whales who were originally set to be transferred, but who turned out to be too sick to undergo the lengthy journey. The animals chosen to take their place were represented as being in good health, yet we now know that was not true for all of the animals. Mystic officials have suggested that all belugas at Marineland are likely in poor health, and in May of 2021 law enforcement authorities in Ontario found that all marine mammals at Marineland were in distress due to poor water quality. The health status of Frankie, Qila, and Mira—the three whales who were originally to be transferred but who ended up staying put at Marineland—is unknown. The public does not even know whether they are still alive.
Animal Justice is continuing to push for improved oversight of conditions at Marineland, and for federal authorities to investigate the circumstances surrounding the transfer of belugas to the United States last May. In the meantime, we will continue to work with partner organizations to ensure that as many whales and dolphins from Marineland as possible are able to be moved to seaside sanctuaries – the best possible outcome for these animals who do not belong in concrete tanks.
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