The US National Marine Fisheries Service is investigating following the deaths of Havana and Havok, two belugas transferred in May 2021 from Marineland in Ontario to Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut. Havana passed away in March 2022, and Havok lost his life in the summer of 2021. A third whale, possibly Jetta, who was also transferred from Marineland, is now reportedly in intensive care.
Animal Justice has been calling for Canadian authorities to investigate the sale of beluga whales from Marineland to the United States, but the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans has refused to act.
Mystic Aquarium has now admitted that some of the belugas were suffering from health problems at the time of travel, and questions remain as to why Canada approved the transfer to begin with.
Canada banned most export of captive whales and dolphins in 2019, with limited exceptions for scientific research or if a transfer is in the best interests of the animals. But these rules are clearly in need of improvement. Exports should never be allowed if an animal is unfit for travel and the process should also be transparent and involve public consultation. But instead, Canada secretly approved the beluga sale without any public input.
This unfolding tragedy underscores the need for federal and provincial action to protect the health and well-being of animals still being held at Marineland. As of its 2021 season, the facility had approximately 50 whales and dolphins, although it’s not clear how many of those animals may have died this winter while Marineland was closed. There have been numerous troubling reports of recent beluga deaths at the notorious marine park.
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 US in 2021.
Since 2019, it’s been illegal under national laws to breed or keep whales and dolphins in captivity, after Canada passed Bill S-203. The dozens of whales and dolphins still held captive at Marineland will remain in captivity as they would not survive in the wild, but some of these animals might be relocated to a sanctuary in the future. We’re anticipating the opening of The Whale Sanctuary Project, Canada’s first seaside sanctuary, that is currently in the works in Port Hilford, Nova Scotia. We hope governments will support this groundbreaking project and help ensure Canada’s last remaining captive cetaceans can have a kinder future in a spacious cove, while still receiving the human care they need to survive.