EU should avoid extreme rendition of beluga whales

A beluga whale photographed in its natural habitat during IFAW funded annual research in Solovetsky, Russia.My colleague Patrick Ramage has already shared the good news that 18 beluga whales will not be forced to spend the rest of their days in captivity at an aquarium in the US. One thing he doesn’t mention is the European angle to the illegal rendition of these whales.

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The original plan called for the whales to be flown out of Russia on an antiquated plane better suited for fire drills than actual transport. The plane chosen is so loud it wasn’t permitted to legally fly through US airspace. Instead, the whales would be flown in this airborne cacophony to Liege, Belgium where they would be transferred to a new plane to complete the journey to Atlanta, Georgia.

As many of you know belugas and other marine mammals have incredibly sensitive hearing and depend on it for communication, mating, feeding and other vital functions. The fact that they would be callously exposed to the racket of rickety flight breaks my heart. More alarmingly, to think that Belgium and the EU would be complicit in this torture really makes my blood boil.

EU law and EU citizens are firm and unequivocal in the belief that whales belong in the wild. 

Just look at the recent outcry that lead to Rotterdam and others closing ports to whale meat.

I’m glad these 18 whales, whose fate is far from certain, will at least be spared this loud long-haul flight and Liege lay-over. And it is good the Obama Administration has maintained a two-decade record of not importing wild caught whales into the United States. But don’t let the players off the field quite so quickly. National and EU authorities should take notice and act now to ensure European rendition of such creatures is avoided in the future.

--AH

For more information on IFAW efforts to protect whales, visit our campaign pages.

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Experts

Dr. Maria (Masha) N. Vorontsova, Regional Director, Russia & CIS
Regional Director, Russia & CIS
Dr. Ralf (Perry) Sonntag, Country Director, Germany
Country Director, Germany
Isabel McCrea, Regional Director, Oceania
Regional Director, Oceania
IFAW Japan Representative
IFAW Japan Representative
Patrick Ramage, Program Director, Whales
Program Director, Whales
Robbie Marsland, Regional Director, United Kingdom
Regional Director, United Kingdom