The Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta has applied for a permit to bring 18 beluga whales into the country.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that the whales would be housed in aquariums and zoological parks around the country.
The application is part of a three-year, multimillion-dollar conservation program meant to improve the genetic diversity of belugas in captivity in the U.S. That would, in turn, make the beluga population more stable and would broaden the database of research on belugas' needs and capabilities.
Georgia Aquarium chief zoological officer William Hurley says there are 34 belugas in captivity in the U.S. He said many of them are past calf-bearing age, and bringing more belugas into the pool could improve the success of breeding efforts.