Havana, a young female beluga, died last month at Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut. Havok, a young male beluga, died at the aquarium last summer. Mystic, which announced the deaths after they occurred, said last month that a third whale from Marineland was in intensive care.
The mammals were among five beluga whales sent to Mystic in May 2021 after Marineland, a tourist attraction in Niagara Falls, Ont., sold them for an undisclosed price.
The U.S. and Canadian governments approved the move, which was allowed for research purposes. The deaths of the transferred whales are now under scrutiny by the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service.
“The agency is reviewing the circumstances of the deaths of the imported beluga whales and is co-ordinating closely with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service,” Katie Wagner, a spokeswoman with the service, told The Canadian Press in a written statement.
In Canada, the Fisheries Department said it approved permits for the whales after receiving an “attestation of good health for each beluga,” and is not reviewing the transfer.
Mystic and Marineland did not respond to multiple written requests for comment.
Word of the U.S. review comes after the Animal Welfare Institute, an American advocacy group, asked the American government last week to investigate the transfer and treatment of the whales from Marineland.
The advocacy group noted three Marineland whales originally set to be transferred were replaced months before the move due to health issues.
“While we advised against the issuance of this permit from the outset, our present concerns stem from Mystic’s need to replace three of the original whales proposed for importation with substitutes that Mystic stated would be healthy,” it wrote in a letter to the government.