Georgia Aquarium, in collaboration with other accredited zoological partners, helped fund a comprehensive study including the use of satellite tagging to assess population abundance, seasonal movements and genetics of the beluga whales in the Western Sea of Okhotsk (in the Sakhalin-Amur region of far East Russia). Scientists from the Russian Academy of Sciences A.N. Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution completed the study.

Experts Ensure Humane Handling of Animals for the Study

To ensure that every part of the study was conducted ethically, and humanely, we sent zoological experts to the far east of Russia’s Chkalov Island to observe and verify the collection and release of whales was appropriate and acceptable, meeting United States Marine Mammal Protection Act requirements. The process and techniques witnessed were similar to the methods used by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA/Fisheries) and other researchers and agencies during cetacean field research studies.

Study Finds the Population is Stable

After five years of study, the Russian Academy of Sciences A.N. Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution concluded this population of belugas is stable and that acquiring a limited number from this population will have no negative impact on its sustainability.

IUCN Validates the Study

The internationally-recognized authority on wildlife conservation, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) formed an independent scientific review panel, led by the Chair of the IUCN Species Specialists Group for Cetaceans, to vigorously analyze the research assumptions, methods, analyses and conclusions.

While this lengthy research process continued, Georgia Aquarium and its accredited partners continued ongoing collaborative breeding efforts with the North American population.

The effort to acquire the beluga whales began in Russia.