Whale sanctuary project reveals two possible locations


In an effort to gather feedback from the community regarding a proposed whale sanctuary, three meetings were held in the San Juans on the project.

“There are sanctuaries for other large mammals like elephants,” said sanctuary council chairwoman Lori Marino, adding that she saw no reason why the same could not be done for marine mammals. like orcas, dolphins and beluga whales.

Several members of the Whale Sanctuary Project presented information on establishing a captive whale sanctuary at Brickworks on July 21. Meetings were also held on Orcas and Lopez.

According to project organizers, the requirements for a whale sanctuary include: access to 60 to 100 acres of water with a minimum depth of 50 feet in at least half of the sanctuary; protection against extreme weather conditions; one free of sewers, pollutants and noise; a good rinse rate; minimal human activity or boat traffic; and a separate area for medical and other special care needs.

One location the group is considering is Deep Water Bay on Cypress Island. An area on Sucia Island is also being considered, but has been the subject of less research, said executive director Charles Vinick. There are other possible locations in Washington State, as well as in British Columbia, Canada. A location on the east coast is also being considered for captive beluga whales.

One of the orcas they hope to bring to the sanctuary is Tokitae, 53. In 1970, Tokitae was taken from his family, the southern resident killer whale pod known as Lpod. She now spends her days at the Miami Seaquarium as Lolita, entertaining tourists and swimming circles in one of the smallest reservoirs in the country. If the shrine ended up in the San Juan, Tokitae could spend the rest of his life in his native waters of the Salish Sea. Killer whales in captivity, Marino said, only live 15 to 20 years on average, compared to the wild where they regularly exceed 50 years. Tokitae has lived well beyond the average lifespan of an orca in captivity.

“She’s resilient,” Marino said.

The Lummi Nation actively tried to bring attention to Tokitae’s plight, bringing a totem pole to Miami in her honor. Members of the shrine project worked with the Lummi Nation to create the shrine.

The group hopes to house six to eight orcas at the facility. According to Marino, all would probably spend the rest of their lives there. Full-time veterinary staff would be needed to care for them. Because there would already be staff and equipment, Marino and other members said if any of the wild residents of the South needed urgent care, the facility could help.

“Kind of like someone is asking if there is a doctor in the house,” Marino said. “We would be available to help if we needed it. “

While much of the public expressed a desire to do something positive for captive whales and dolphins, many others had concerns.

Although he noted that before bringing a whale into the sanctuary, each animal would be fully screened and a full health scan would be performed, members of the public were concerned that pathogens could spread to wild whales in the region, especially to southern residents at risk.

Being able to rehabilitate sick or injured whales has also raised red flags for many. One attendee wanted presenters to promise healthy resident killer whales would not be captured for containment.

“I guarantee you that we will not bring the residents of the South together,” said Marino.

Another question regarding the rehabilitation was if the group should take a whale that could not be released, what would the staff do with the whale.

Vinick replied that it was difficult to say without details about the situation, but generally speaking, if the whale could not be released, the sanctuary would likely choose not to host it because that essentially meant the animal was in. dying. Since killer whales are social animals, he should spend his last days with his family.

“Do we have all the answers? Never. Do we have strategies? Yes, ”Vinick said, explaining that the group continually asks,“ Is that possible? How can this be done? Will this make sense for the whales? “

For more information on the sanctuary project, visit https://whalesanctuaryproject.org/.

Whale sanctuary project reveals two possible locations

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