The beluga whales are known for drawing a lot of people to the Mystic Aquarium, but Friday, those crowds came to the capitol to urge lawmakers to keep the whales in Connecticut.
This after Rep. David Michele, a Democrat from Stamford, introduced legislation to end captive marine mammal research in the state.
If he’s successful, Mystic Aquarium’s three belugas would be the last.
Dozens of people came to the capitol to urge lawmakers not to let that happen.
“We enjoy Mystic Aquarium, we like the fact that it’s a research facility,” said Sheryl Lambert of Mansfield.
Lambert said she’s been visiting the Mystic Aquarium since she was a little girl and has been bringing her own family here for years.
“It does things to promote animal welfare and animal help. A lot of rescuing happens at Mystic Aquarium,” she said.
The days may be numbered for her favorite exhibit, the beluga whales, thanks to a bill before the Connecticut State Legislature.
“It effectively ends our capability of really educating the public about these whales and allowing the public to feel that personal connection with these animals,” said Laura Thomson, a research scientist at the Mystic Aquarium.
Michele’s bill bans cetaceans or whales, dolphins and porpoises from being bred, sold or held in captivity.
“I think it’s a compassionate thing to do. We don’t need to do research in tanks,” he explained. “I just don’t want to see anymore entities, groups, companies or aquariums being more cetaceans to our state.”
Marine life that’s already here could stay, include Mystic’s three belugas, but once they reached the end of their life they couldn’t be replaced.
“Mystic can continue its research by getting samples from the many other facilities around the world,” said Naomi Rose, of the Animal Welfare Institute.
Thompson disagreed, saying direct observation of these gentle giants in captivity is critical to learning more about them in the wild.
“To understand how their physiology is allowing them to respond to their environment as well as respond to changes to their environment that are being driven by human activity,” she explained.
Lambert hopes her beloved belugas keep calling Mystic home for generations to come.
“It created a sympathy and an empathy for those animals that probably wouldn’t have existed otherwise,” she said.