"We are petitioning the Russian department of Fisheries and the Utrishskiy delphinarium to first allow a panel of experts to assess and evaluate the health and well-being of these mammals,” the Texas-based conservation group Fins and Fluke said in an explanation of its effort posted on the petition website change.org.
"We are then asking that pending the health of each Beluga, the team be granted permission to rehabilitate and release these animals back into the ocean, where they belong,” the text stated.
It did not say when the petition, which was also posted on the website, was started. It noted however that the US decision to prohibit the import of the whales was announced August 5. A counter on the site showed it had so far picked up over 3,500 of the 10,000 signatures sought.
The request by the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta to import the Belugas was rejected by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on the grounds that five of the whales may have been nursing when they were captured between 2006 and 2011 and that granting the request would fuel demand leading to a negative impact on the whale population.
A question mark however hands over the fate of the whales following the rejection of the US import application. In an email interview with "social change” website TakePart.com, Fins and Fluke president Alex Dorer admitted the fate of the whales may already have been decided.
"It is entirely possible these Beluga's have already been sold, and if that's the case I would be heartbroken," Dorer said.