Almost exactly one year ago, the Georgia Aquarium's request to import 18 wild-caught beluga whales into the U.S. was denied by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Now, the aquarium is headed back to court about the issue - but it will be met by a blockade of conservationists who plan to thwart the facility.
The aquarium applied for the permit to import belugas - something that hasn't been done in over 20 years - back in 2012. After it was denied in August 2013, the facility filed suit, seeking a ruling in federal court to force the permit through.
On Wednesday, representatives from the aquarium will appear at the U.S. District Court Northern District of Georgia in a bid to add more documents to their permit application, as well as to seek documents about NOAA's decision.
The whales, which were caught between 2006 and 2011 in Russia's Sea of Okhotsk, are currently held at the country's Utrish Marine Mammal Research Station. If they were to be imported, the animals would be distributed to six different facilities, including all three SeaWorld parks and the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago.