The number of belugas in captivity is estimated at 200. Environmental organization hopes to create a natural sanctuary for 4 to 8 whales off the east coast of Nova Scotia (The Canadian Press)
Plans appear to be well advanced for the creation of a deep sea sanctuary on the east coast of Canada for captive beluga whales.
After exploring sites across North America, the Whale Sanctuary Project settled at two potential sites in Nova Scotia.
Lori Marino, president of the project, is a neuroscientist who has studied the intelligence of whales and dolphins. She says the final site must have an acceptable depth of 15 meters, be ice free in winter and have an average water temperature acceptable for beluga whales, be protected from major storm surges and other factors, such as current movement appropriate for flushing. The ancient whales of the marine park would then live their lives, between 40 and 80 years, in a much more natural way.
About 40 acres or 16 hectares would be protected, giving the whales enough room for natural activity. although bred in captivity, they could not survive in the wild.
Six to eight formerly captive whales are expected to be transferred to the ocean site.
The Whale Sanctuary Project says it has private funding to create the site, around $ 15 million for the nets, interpretive center, veterinary facility, and non-invasive viewing sites.
The group held a number of meetings with residents of the two potential sites, Port Hilford and Mushaboom to ensure they would be okay with the project becoming an eco-tourist destination, donations would help pay for the long term maintenance.
At this point, while many locals agree, some lobster fishermen have expressed their opposition, as have other boaters who travel the area. The project seems to prefer Mushaboom, but at the moment there is greater local acceptance in the Port Hilford area.
Another local meeting near Mushaboom will take place on December 16 to present the latest plans and get local feedback. Marino says the project cannot move forward without local approval.
It wouldn’t be the first such sanctuary for beluga whales. This was created by the Sea Life Trust in a location in Iceland.
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