An aquarium in the U.S. state of Georgia wants a judge to overturn a federal agency's denial of a permit to import 18 beluga whales from Russia for display in the United States.
The Georgia Aquarium argues that bringing new belugas into the captive population in the United States would diversify the gene pool, make the population more stable, and broaden the database of research on belugas' needs and capabilities.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) National Marine Fisheries Service said the aquarium's application for an import permit failed to meet some requirements of the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
The aquarium filed the application in June 2012, and NOAA Fisheries denied it in August 2013. The aquarium in September 2013 asked a federal judge to overturn the denial.
Oral arguments in the case are to be presented during the next week.
Based on reporting by AP and The Washington Post