Following a recent landmark decision by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to stop the Georgia Aquarium and its SeaWorld affiliates from importing 18 Russian beluga whales, Kim Basinger has sent an urgent appeal to Russian President Vladimir Putin – whose official website touts his advocacy for marine mammals – asking him to release the whales from captivity.

The Georgia-born actor and long-time PETA supporter has been a leading voice on this issue, also publicly pushing NOAA last year to let the whales stay in Russia. As Basinger explains in her letter to Putin, the next step for the whales should be to rehabilitate and return them to their ocean home, from which they were taken years ago.

NOAA’s decision is just one of many recent developments contributing to the decline of cruel marine-mammal captivity. The highly anticipated documentary Blackfish, which explores the debilitating effects of constant confinement on the orcas at SeaWorld, was also released last month to widespread acclaim.

“I was thrilled to learn that the 18 beluga whales who were slated to be transported from the Utrish Marine Mammal Research Station to a U.S. aquarium will remain in Russia and out of my home state of Georgia,” she wrote. "The whales would have had a bleak life if they had been shipped to Georgia for public display. At least four belugas and two whale sharks have already died at the Georgia Aquarium in recent years. As an ardent supporter of marine life, I commend you for your efforts to preserve this magnificent species. Now that these whales will not be transferred to the U.S., I urge you to take the next step and ensure that they are returned to their rightful ocean home.

“The long-term survival of belugas increases dramatically in their natural habitat. U.S. officials, in making the decision to prohibit the importation of these belugas, determined that the live-capture trade may have contributed to the species’ decline and that allowing belugas to be shipped for public display would only increase demand for these animals to the detriment of the species. The U.S. documentary Blackfish has also generated international criticism of marine parks such as SeaWorld and aquariums that continue to confine whales and dolphins to small concrete tanks, despite our knowledge of how painful and harmful such confinement is to these complex animals.

“The plight of these whales has the whole world watching to see what will happen next. I urge you to help return these belugas to their families in the ocean. Will you take a strong unequivocal stand in favor of marine animals by initiating the rehabilitation-and-release process?”

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