Mystic, Conn. (August 28, 2020): The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recently announced the approval of Mystic Aquarium’s permit Application to Import 5 Beluga Whales for Scientific Research (File No. 22629). The landmark decision provides Mystic Aquarium’s world-class conservation research with the opportunity to expand critical knowledge that will help shape and inform management and recovery of wild beluga whales, including endangered and depleted populations.
“We are incredibly grateful to NOAA, National Marine Fisheries and the Marine Mammal Commission for their diligence and commitment throughout the process,” said Dr. Stephen M. Coan, President and CEO of Mystic Aquarium.
The first-ever research permit of its kind, the decision reflects the world-class caliber of the research conducted by scientists at Mystic Aquarium and the confidence that the international research community has in those efforts.
The permit enables Mystic Aquarium to safely transport five beluga whales born in human care from Marineland Canada (Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada) for conservation research.
“It’s a historic day for Mystic Aquarium,” added Coan. “This is part of an international effort that highlights the collaboration and leadership of our work as we strive to make crucial advances in conservation research and species survival.”
The research will include investigations into neuro-immunological response to environmental and anthropogenic stressors, hearing and physiological response to anthropogenic sound, morphometrics to inform photogrammetry studies, diving physiology, microbiome and much more.
Through an extensive application process that included a public comment period, public hearing, and meetings with stakeholders from all sides, the approval of this permit is reflective of the importance of this work, and of the constructive and respectful dialogue that is critical to ensure the best interest of the species.
“It’s emotional,” said Dr. Tracy Romano, Chief Scientist at Mystic Aquarium. “The non-invasive research we will be able to do as a result of this permit is pivotal to stemming the tide of extinction for endangered belugas and to ensuring the sustainability of beluga populations in a rapidly changing environment.”
“It’s been a long time coming from where we started – first characterizing the beluga immune system, then developing important tools to study the impacts of environmental and anthropogenic stressors on the immune system and overall health – and now, the opportunity to apply our work and aid in conservation and sustainability of wild beluga populations is truly what I have been working my entire career toward,” added Romano.