Georgia Aquarium Inc. fired back, filing a lawsuit to challenge NMFS's decision. But with this week's ruling, the case will face a whole new line of defenses: the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI), Whale and Dolphin Conservation, Cetacean Society International, and Earth Island Institute, all of whom the court said "were instrumental in informing [NMFS's] determination to deny the permit." The organizations will now have a chance to defend the wild belugas from the U.S. aquariums' demands.
"We are pleased that the court is permitting us to defend the agency's decision to deny the permit application, which was based on a rigorous scientific analysis," said Susan Millward, executive director of AWI in a press release. "The court must now uphold the agency's decision, which helps protect this stock from further depletion by cutting off the U.S. market for wild beluga whale imports."
Animal advocates say that not only would the belugas -- which are currently held captive at a research station in Russia -- have to undergo stressful transportation over 24 hours, the U.S. also shouldn't support the capture of wild belugas. To make matters worse, the company that captured these particular whales, Utrish Dolphinarium, Ltd., in the Sea of Okhotsk in Russia has a long and sordid history of capturing other cetaceans, including wild orca whales.