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October 27 2012

Georgia Aquarium Beluga Plan Raises Whale Culture Questions

Opponents of the Georgia Aquarium’s controversial plan to move 18 wild beluga whales into captivity say their capture wasn’t just inhumane, but potentially destructive to a beluga clan, perhaps even a culture.

The idea that whales should be seen in cultural terms, rather than grouped genetically, is a fairly new one, but supported by science. And while the aquarium rightly defends the capture as unthreatening to the survival of belugas at large in Russia’s Sea of Okhotsk, it’s possible that a smaller, unique group was damaged.

The possibility could affect the aquarium’s request for federal endorsement of the plan, which needs to be approved before it can go forward.

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