At a press conference held March 26, 2015, in Korea, the Korean Animal Welfare Association (KAWA) and Earth Island Institute Philippines urged the governments of Korea and the Philippines to prohibit the re-exportation of beluga whales, specifically those from the Geoje Sea World (GSW) in Korea to the Manila Ocean Park (MOP) in the Philippines.
“Many countries ban import and export of cetaceans, especially for the purpose of public display,” said Hyung Ju Lee, Campaigns Director of KAWA. “Without the ban, Korea will be repeatedly used as a ‘laundering country’ for the cetacean captive industry.”
Both facilities are owned by Mr. Lim Chee Yong. MOP has been applying for a permit initially through a letter-of-intent where they have also mentioned their expansion plan, which includes a display facility for beluga whales.
“These arctic whales won’t have any fun in tropical Philippines,” said Trixie Concepcion, Regional Director of Earth Island Institute Philippines. “Bringing them to the Philippines is against the principle of sustainability and a violation of Philippine laws, specifically the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act or RA 9147.”
Philippine institutions opposed to the importation of whales include the National Museum and Siliman University. The former is a CITES scientific authority, and the latter a premiere University on marine sciences. Both institutions have publicly stated their scientific opinions about this issue.
“As we all know, beluga whales thrive in the cold arctic or sub-arctic regions of the world,” said Concepcion. “In the wild, belugas can live from 30 to 55 years old, but rarely survive at this age in captivity. Take for example the aquarium in Taiwan: out of ten beluga whales procured in 2002, only three survive today.”
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has declared beluga whales as “near-threatened species” and discourages the hunting of these animals. And recently, the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species (CMS) highlighted the cultural capabilities of dolphins and whales and passed a resolution to end their capture for captive purposes.
In an interview at Kyung Nam, the Geoje Sea World denied the planned exportation and said that as far as they know, Manila Ocean Park has just sent a letter to ask about the procedure of importation from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources.
However, written in MOP’s letter to BFAR dated January 8, 2014 is their “intention to apply for a permit to import the following: Beluga Whales (Delphinapterus leucas), Bottlenose Dolphins (Tursiops truncatus), and South American Sea Lions (Otaria flavescens) & Harbor seals (Phoca vitulina).”
Both KAWA and Earth Island Philippines are urging all animal-loving people to support the petition against the importation at change.org/beluga.
*Photos by Earth Island Institute Philippines’ Alfonso ‘Dong’ Pading, Jr.