ATLANTA (June 22, 2016) - Following an extensive and unfruitful twelve-year effort to relocate 18 beluga whales from Russia to the United States to create a sustainable population of the beluga whales in human care in North America, the leadership of Georgia Aquarium has decided that it will no longer seek to collect dolphins or beluga whales from the wild except in rescue situations.

This decision was reached after the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration denied the aquarium’s permit application to import the beluga whales from Sea of Okhotsk, despite a validated peer-review population abundance study that concluded the population is stable and will not be negatively affected by acquiring a limited number of belugas from that area.

We feel strongly we were doing what was right and lawful and that NOAA Fisheries violated their longstanding interpretation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act, which specifically stresses the importance of caring for animals at zoos and aquariums in order to not only advance science, but to encourage conservation and awareness in the millions of guests who visit these organizations.

However, we believe NOAA’s decision is precedent-setting and could be challenging for any future requests for acquisition from ocean-dwelling populations.

The aquarium remains committed to its important mission of providing exceptional care of cetaceans as well as educational, conservation and research efforts. It will continue its dolphin and beluga whale programs through breeding and exchange of animals living at high-quality care facilities.

For more information about Georgia Aquarium’s efforts to relocate beluga whales from Russia to the U.S. please visit:



Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that contains more than 10 million gallons of water and has the largest collection of aquatic animals. Georgia Aquarium’s mission is to be a scientific institution that entertains and educates, features exhibits and programs of the highest standards, and offers engaging and exciting guest experiences that promote the conservation of aquatic biodiversity throughout the world. Georgia Aquarium is an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums. For additional information, visit