U.S. aquarium says 2nd beluga whale transferred from Marineland has died

Mystic Aquarium said in a statement shared on social media Friday that the female beluga had been in its intensive care unit and staff and veterinarians had been providing "round-the-clock medical treatment" before she died.

Animal welfare group describes death as 'disturbing,' says 'whales deserve better'

Three beluga whales swim together in an acclimation pool after arriving at Mystic Aquarium, Friday, May 14, 2021 in Mystic, Connecticut. Two of the five whales transferred there from Marineland have now died, according to the aquarium. (Jason DeCrow/AP Images for Mystic Aquarium)

An American aquarium says a second beluga whale transferred there from Marineland has died.

In a statement Friday, Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut said the female beluga had been in its intensive care unit and that staff and veterinarians had been providing "round-the-clock medical treatment" before she died.

The cause of death won't be known until a full necropsy is carried out, it said.

"Our team provided a continuum of world-class care to this whale for many months," said Allison Tuttle, Mystic's chief zoological officer, in the statement. 

"When an animal passes in the wild, it is the circle of life. When it happens at an Aquarium, with an animal you have grown to know, care for 24/7 and adore, it is devastating."

Marineland did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the whale's death.

The whale was one of five from the Niagara Falls, Ont. tourist attraction that were transported to the aquarium in May 2021 as part of a research project.

One of the five, a male whale named Havok, died in August following a lengthy battle with a pre-existing gastrointestinal condition, the aquarium said at the time.

Mystic issued a statement after the most-recent death saying it had made changes following an inspection by the U.S. Department of Agriculture last fall, which pointed to issues in five areas, including communication between veterinarians and animal care staff on the night of Havok's death.

Those issues also included handling and accommodations for animals with vision challenges, access to shade, and changes in water quality, according to the statement issued then.

Stephen Coan, CEO of Mystic, is quoted saying that the Animal Welfare Act is meant to protect animals.

A beluga whale is shown being rolled to its new habitat in a transport cart after arriving at Mystic Aquarium, Friday, May 14, 2021 in Mystic, Conn. The whale was among five imported to Mystic Aquarium from Canada for research on the endangered mammals. (Jason DeCrow/AP Images for Mystic Aquarium)

"Inspections, investigations when an animal dies, and accreditation processes are essential learning tools to advance the care and welfare of animals," he stated.

"We are constantly seeking to evolve and learn in our mission to provide the best possible care for animals."

Advocacy groups calls for investigation

Advocacy group The Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) issued a statement of its own Friday saying it was "appalled" to learn of a second death at Mystic, adding it's "disturbing" that two whales have died less than a year after the transfer.

"These five whales were supposed to be healthy when they were imported, but it is becoming increasingly clear they were not," stated Dr. Naomi Rose, AWI's marine mammal scientist.

"These whales deserve better — we demand a full government investigation into this situation. What was meant to be an uneventful import for research has become a disaster."

The transfer to Mystic happened after an animal welfare organization sought to block the transfer of the whales in U.S. court. However, a judge declined to issue an injunction. 

Both Canadian and U.S. federal governments signed off on the move.

Mystic is currently home to six other belugas, though one of them is in intensive care, the aquarium said.

with files from the Canadian Press