mystic aquarium

Mystic Aquarium: New Bill Would End Beluga Whale Research

The purpose of the bill is to prohibit the sale and breeding of certain cetaceans, including beluga whales.

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Representatives from the Mystic Aquarium are scheduled to testify against a bill that, they say, would uniquely impact decades-old research conducted at the aquarium.

The aquarium's chief scientist, Tracy Romano, said that the bill, being considered by the General Assembly, would put an end to their research into the marine mammal immune system and factors threatening the sustainability of the species in the native environment.

The aquarium studies both beluga whales in the wild and in captivity. Romano said that the research requires a control group to be kept in captivity.

"There are just things that we are learning from whales in our care we could not learn from animals in the wild," said Romano.

The Environment Committee is currently reviewing Raised House Bill 5341: "An act prohibiting the sale and breeding of certain cetaceans." Representative David Michel (D), who represents Stamford, is sponsoring the bill.

"Marine life and all animals in captivitiy is not something I agree with," said Michel.

Michel said the bill is designed to prevent more animals from being held in captivity in the State of Connecticut. He said, as written, the bill would grandfather in some of the research the Mystic Aquarium is conducting and would allow for their three beluga whales to remain at the aquarium.

"Being stuck in a bathtub your whole life, I don't think is that much fun," said Michel.

However Romano said that the bill, as written, would end their research. She said that if the aquarium was required to stop any breeding, they would have to either separate whales or give their whales pharmaceuticals to prevent them from reproducing. Romano said that would deem the control group invalid.

"We are doing reproductive research. One of the signs of a healthy wild population is that they are able to reproduce and thrive," said Romano. "We are gathering a lot of data just on behaviors surrounding the breeding season which will help inform wild whales and look at their reproduction."

Romano also said that prohibiting the transport of the cetaceans in and out of the state would put an end to their research.

"In order to continue this research and carry it on, we need animals to be able to move freely between facilities and to bring more animals in," said Romano.

They Mystic Aquarium is currently waiting on federal approval to import five beluga whales, that were born in captivity, from Canada to their facility in Connecticut.

Michel said he is against the transfer of whales and wants to prevent anymore animals from being held in captivity.

Romano said that with out anymore beluga whales to study as a control group, they would have to end their research.

"We are doing so much research for the conservation of wild whales and with out the ability to do that we are going to continue to lose species," said Romano.

The environment committee is holding a public hearing on the bill Friday.

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