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ATLANTA, Ga. -- The Georgia Aquarium wants to bring 18 Beluga Whales to the United States.

The Aquarium was denied their request to bring the whales here more than two years ago. On Wednesday, aquarium officials appeal that decision before a federal judge.

When they first asked to bring the mammals here, it started a firestorm of controversy from animal rights advocates.

The whales were collected at a research facility in Russia in 2006, 2010, and 2011.

There has been strong opposition to bringing the Belugas to the US from environmentalists who think the whales should stay put. But the aquarium argues it would do more good to have them here, where they say they can teach people to care about wildlife and serve as ambassadors.

This is a very long running fight between the two groups.

All the way back in June of 2012, the Aquarium submitted the application to bring the whales to the US.

A year later, NOAA denied their application, which at the time, was unexpected.

The Georgia Aquarium filed their appeal in October of 2013.

The court held a hearing on Wednesday about documents the Georgia Aquarium wants uncovered.

According to the Aquarium, NOAA seemed likely to approve their request and then changed course.

The Aquarium asked for all documents related to the decision not to allow the whales to come to the United States.

The judge said on Wednesday that she would need time to review documents. It's not clear when a ruling will be made.

The aquarium was denied its request to bring 18 whales to Georgia from Russia more than two years ago, but Wednesday, they will appeal that decision.

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