On June 22, 2016, Georgia Aquarium announced it would no longer seek to acquire dolphins or beluga whales from the wild for its exhibits. While an important step forward, the announcement came only after the aquarium had lost a two-year court battle to acquire a permit to import 18 wild-caught belugas from Russia. Only a few days before the announcement, a documentary entitled Born to Be Free premiered at a film festival in the United Kingdom. The documentary, directed and filmed by two Russian journalists, is about the international trade in live Russian belugas and focuses strongly and critically on the import request by Georgia Aquarium.
To accompany its announcement, the aquarium prepared a media kit, which amounted to a 50-page apologia for its decade-long effort to acquire these wild whales and strongly suggests that it felt the need to proactively defend itself against the film, which is not yet in wide distribution. In particular, Georgia Aquarium insisted that by law it should have received the import permit, despite the judge’s scathing ruling clarifying the many ways in which the permit request failed to pass legal muster. The media kit was so illogical and misstated so many facts that AWI (which intervened in the lawsuit) prepared a rebuttal, available at www.awionline.org/GArebuttal.