Non-profit group explores Nova Scotia for whale sanctuary project

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HALIFAX – A US-based group is exploring the shores of Nova Scotia in hopes of finding a sanctuary where previously captive whales and dolphins could dive deep into the cold waters of the North Atlantic.

Lori Marino, director of the nonprofit Whale Sanctuary Project, said on Friday they were looking for a site where the creatures could roam a netting area about the size of 40 large athletic fields.

An alternative is needed for the captured whales and dolphins that are currently kept in marinas and spend their lives performing or being on display to the public, she said.

“I want to give them back part of their well-being, part of their natural habitat and allow them to retire with the freedom to do pretty much whatever they want without being imposed on them by people who want to ride on them. and touch them and do tricks with them, ”Utah-based Marino said in an interview Friday in Halifax.

The concept aims to teach people to see cetaceans as wild creatures rather than objects of human entertainment, in a setting more akin to a national park than a zoo. He imagines visitors observing the animals in their natural habitat from a safe distance.

“It would be a place where people could go to see these animals, perhaps for the first time, in their own habitat and also learn more about them in an authentic way,” said Marino.

She says the approximate cost of the project would be $ 15 million and that it would include a visitor center and staff who would ensure the five to eight whales, likely beluga whales and orcas, were fed and cared for.

Neuroscientists and marine mammal experts say whales and dolphins kept in captivity cannot be released into the wild because they have not developed the skills to survive, which makes for a controlled sanctuary with food. a necessity.

Marino says she cannot disclose areas being considered in Nova Scotia, but says the province’s coast is part of several North American coasts, including areas off Maine and British Columbia, where there is potential habitat.

She says a decision on a potential location will be made by the middle of next year by the nonprofit charity group.

The group says it is consulting with the federal Department of Fisheries, First Nations and other interested community groups about regulatory approvals needed for the use of the coasts as a netting sanctuary.

Marino said she had held meetings with the federal Fisheries Department to explore the regulatory processes that would be required for a sanctuary.

A ministry spokesperson was not immediately available for comment.

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