"Like something out of a Russian spy novel ... Georgia Aquarium launched a wholesale attack on NMFS (National Marine Fisheries Service), accusing the Agency of 'cooking the books' to fabricate its rationale in a deliberate and conspiratorial effort to deny Georgia Aquarium's import permit," federal judge Amy Totenberg wrote.
The plans had been to use the beluga whales - who were caught in the Sea of Okhotsk and were last reported to be held in Russia's Utrish Marine Mammal Research Station - in a breeding program with SeaWorld, helping to produce more captive belugas for exhibits. But earlier this month, with the court case still pending, SeaWorld reversed its decision to use the belugas. SeaWorld publicly admitted their change in policy, taking a slight stance on wild-caught animals, and animal advocates called the move one of the biggest effects of the 2013 documentary "Blackfish" so far.
"We are thrilled with the court's ruling," said Dr. Naomi Rose, marine mammal scientist at the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI). "The MMPA [Marine Mammal Protection Act] was enacted to protect marine mammals from harm and exploitation and that is exactly what it has done in this case. The US will thankfully not be part of the unsustainable and inhumane trade in belugas out of Russia."