SeaWorld Parks could have imported beluga whales captured from the wild for the first time in at least a decade-- if the government permit goes through.
According to the National Marine Fisheries Service government application, the Georgia Aquarium has applied for a permit to import 18 beluga whales from Russia, which are caught from the wild.
The aquarium would then share the whales on a breeding loan to SeaWorld Orlando, SeaWorld San Diego, SeaWorld San Antonio and Chicago's Shedd Aquarium.
The Marine Mammal Protection Act allows for the removal from the wild or importation of marine mammals for the purpose of public display. SeaWorld typically uses breeding programs instead of capturing wild animals for display.
Records show the SeaWorld parks currently have 17 beluga whales between Orlando and San Diego’s Wild Arctic exhibits and San Antonio’s beluga whale and dolphin show. Eight of those are wild caught, the last one being captured in 1990. SeaWorld Orlando has 4 beluga whales, according to report summaries.
It's not clear when the permit will be evaluated.