June 1, 2012
Ms. Armi Cortes
Vice-President,Sales and Marketing Department,Manila Ocean Park
RE: BELUGA WHALES IN MANILA OCEAN PARK
:First of all, congratulations on the successful Back to the Wild shark release program held on May 26,2012, in Calatagan. Unfortunately, I was out of the country that weekend, so I wasn’t able to attend andwitness the historical occasion.I am writing about information we received from a former employee of Manila Ocean Park (MOP) via aprivate message on Facebook. This person, who wishes to remain anonymous, brought our attention to thenews that MOP will again attempt to import dolphins and now beluga whales for an
scheduled from 2013-2015.Civil society groups, led by organizations like Dolphins Love Freedom and Earth Island Institute, weresuccessful in putting a stop to the importation of dolphins for MOP a few years back. Due to the amendmentof the Fisheries Administrative Order 233-1 passed in late 2011 without a thorough public consultation, thePhilippines can now serve as a hub for import and export of marine life—including marine mammals.The source also told us that MOP caught 6 tiger sharks, 4 of which died because the apex predatorsof the sea did not adapt at all to the tiny aquariums of MOP. The person added that the shark meat wasallegedly cut by kilo and sold to the employees.We are reaching out to MOP on behalf of civil society groups who are planning to act upon theseissues. We would like to confirm the information first, and at the same time encourage the facility toreconsider if the information is true.Beluga whales inhabit cold Arctic seawaters and live in family pods.
Their current status in theInternational Union for Conservation of Nature is already NEAR THREATENED.
In captivity, thewhales’ behaviors are altered because they are unable to go on their daily wide-ranging undersea treks, 1-kilometer dives, and annual transcontinental migration through frozen Arctic waters. They are unable to feedon mollusks, crustaceans, and fish near the bottom of the sea. They are also unable to use their highlyevolved echolocation skills since sound bounces off concrete walls in a reverberation that defeats thisfundamental mode of communication and survival.Moreover, the lives of beluga whales in captivity are dramatically shortened due to the stressful andchlorinated conditions.
This may even be further shortened with the tropical and highly