October 27th, 2012P. Michael PayneChief of Permits, Conservation DivisionOffice of Protected Resources National Marine Fisheries Service1315 East West HighwaySilver Spring, MD 20910
RE: NOAA-NMFS-2012-0158 and File No. 17324 - the Georgia Aquarium’s request toimport 18 Beluga Whales from Russia
Dear Mr. Payne,My name is Samantha Berg. I am the owner of Alaska Center for Acupuncture in Palmer, AK,although I am writing to you and NOAA primarily as a former SeaWorld trainer. I worked as ananimal trainer at SeaWorld of Orlando from February of 1990 to August of 1993. During thattime I worked with 4 beluga whales - Spooky, Shadow, AJ and Bandit.A few weeks ago I travelled from Alaska speciﬁcally for the hearing in Silver Spring, MDbecause I felt that it was important for you to hear from a former trainer about what actually goeson behind-the-scenes at places like SeaWorld. I was one of the 15 people who spoke requestingNOAA to deny the permit, and I want to tell you more about why I believe that denying thispermit is the right choice.Many people spoke very eloquently at the hearing about why this permit should be denied. Iheard Dr. Lori Marino speak about the LACK of education at Aquariums and Marine Parks, and Ialso heard Dr. Naomi Rose of the Humane Society International address the technicalspeciﬁcations of the permit and why the capture and import of these animals clearly violates theMMPA. At the hearing, a statement signed by over 60 NGO’s from Courtney Vail of Whale andDolphin Conservation was presented to NOAA. All told, a total of 15 people includingeducators, researchers, animal advocates, homemakers,
pilot, lawyers, andsocial workers, and myself, a former SeaWorld Trainer, spoke against the import request.Other key points that were covered by this group of 15 people during the hearing were thefollowing:
Brutally removing the belugas from the wild and transporting them thousands of milesinto the US for public display is unnecessary, inhumane and threatens wild belugapopulations. It has nothing to do with conservation.
If approved, the import will contribute to the unsustainable and cruel international tradein belugas.