The world’s first deep sea whale sanctuary is slated to open in Iceland in March.
The sanctuary, which will take the form of a 32,000 square meter marine enclosure, will house two 12-year-old belugas.
The whales, nicknamed “Little White” and “Little Gray,” are currently kept at Changfeng Ocean World in Shanghai, where they perform for visitors.
Sea Life Trust, a conservation charity, spent six years developing the project.
“Little White and Little Gray have been in the aquarium since 2011,” said Andy Bool, director of Sea Life Trust.
“They are still relatively young. Beluga whales can live up to 40 to 50 years in the wild. The purpose of the sanctuary is therefore to provide them with a home for the rest of their natural life.
Their ambitious journey from China to Iceland will take over 35 hours and cover 6,000 miles.
“It’s a difficult process to transport and it can be quite stressful for them,” said Cathy Williamson, WDC’s end-of-captivity program manager.
“Unfortunately, the alternative is to leave them in their concrete tank in Shanghai, and that is not good for their health and well-being either.”
Whales will need time to readjust, having spent years away from deep, subarctic waters, but anti-captivity campaigners hope this unprecedented move will pave the way for similar projects in the future.
Their new home will be Klettsvik Bay in the Westman Islands in Iceland, which was the location of the film. Save Willy.
There are over 3,000 whales, dolphins and porpoises held in captivity around the world.