Progress continues on the whale sanctuary project

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It may be another year or two before the Haligonians can travel up the east coast to observe the beluga whales.

It may be another year or two before the Haligonians can move up the east coast to observe the belugas, but the Whale Sanctuary Project continues to make progress.

The sanctuary that will arrive in Port Hilford will essentially be a retirement home for whales that have lived in marine parks.

More than 3,000 whales and dolphins currently live in captivity around the world.

“We know that dolphins and whales don’t live well in ponds in marine parks,” says Lori Marino, neuroscientist and animal behavior expert, who is the founder and chair of the project. “As a marine mammal scientist… I know the toll of these animals that are forced to live in reservoirs and perform, and yet we cannot release them into the ocean.”

“In 2016, I thought to myself why not create permanent sanctuaries for them where they have all the human care they need, but can be cared for in a natural environment?”

This idea was followed by more than two years of research to find the perfect location, traversing creeks, bays and inlets along the coast of Nova Scotia, British Columbia and throughout Washington State. Last February, it was announced that the team had moved to Port Hilford.

“This is the right place for two reasons,” Marino told NEWS 95.7 replacement host Todd Veinotte. “One concerns the physical aspects. It has just the right topography, the right temperature range, the right protection, the right depth, etc. “

“But it’s also close to Sherbrooke, which is a wonderful community of people who have really embraced and embraced our project.

By the end of the month, the Whale Sanctuary Project hopes to officially open its operations center in Sherbrooke, which will be its home base for planning, design and consultation with expert advisors.

“It’s a complex project, there will be a demarcated area of ​​about 100 acres, which is several orders of magnitude the largest reservoir of dolphins and whales in the world,” Marino explained.

“We will hopefully feed them locally sourced fish because they don’t know how to feed being in the tanks for so long,” she added. “And there will be opportunities for internships, jobs and so on for the local community and the Maritimes.”

The facility will have a full-service veterinary clinic and will emphasize educational opportunities.

“As an authentic sanctuary, we are not going to see people approaching the animals, but there will be remote viewing areas,” she said.

“We now have technology that allows us to broadcast what is happening in the sanctuary,” she added. “We will have underwater microphones, videos … underwater, above water and we can broadcast in classrooms, museums, anywhere really.”

The project will be funded by donations and Marino estimates it will cost between $ 12 million and $ 15 million to get the sanctuary up and running, and then an additional $ 1-2 million per year for food, staff and everything in between. healthy and safe whales.

She said the whales won’t start arriving at the facility until they know they have the means to care for them for the rest of their lives.

The current goal is to start with around eight beluga whales.

“These whales would come from marine parks all over the world … as you know a number of facilities have decided to withdraw from the marine mammal entertainment business, these facilities are very interested in what we are doing,” he said. she declared. noted.

“Of course, any whale that comes should be a good candidate. It should be healthy and behave.”

At present, it is hoped that the Whale Sanctuary Project could welcome its first beluga by the end of 2022, but Marino has said COVID-19 could push back the schedule.

“Dolphins and whales belong to the ocean, where they evolved, where they can thrive,” she said. “We have to keep the oceans healthy in order to do this for their free-roaming counterparts.”

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