This is a concept image of the seaside sanctuary we’ll be creating. (The final site has not yet been selected.)
The goal is to offer captive orcas and beluga whales a natural environment that maximizes their opportunities for autonomy, exploration, play, rest, and socializing.
Here are some of the elements we’ve been taking into consideration as we review our finalist sites in Nova Scotia, Washington State and British Columbia:
Space and depth: The sanctuary will be a netted off area like a bay or cove. Our finalist sites all have a minimum average depth of 50 feet and approximately 100 acres of water space (i.e. 484,000 square yards, compared to the 1,100 square yards of the large display tank at a typical high-end marine entertainment park).
Sanctuary environment: Instead of being surrounded by sterile concrete tank walls, the whales will live in a dynamic, complex physical world that has a natural sandy shore and is home to many kinds of plants and animals with whom they can interact.
Beyond the sanctuary: We are conducting rigorous environmental impact assessments at our finalist locations to ensure that there will be no negative effects on wildlife in and around the sanctuary or in the ocean beyond.
Finalist sites must demonstrate:
- Water temperature range of approximately 10–20° C and salinity in the range of 25-35 ppm;
- Protection from extreme weather;
- No ice cover;
- Avoidance of sewage or pollutants (chemical or acoustic);
- Good flushing rate;
- Utilities and infrastructure.
Sanctuary facilities will include:
- The main enclosure;
- An isolation area for new residents;
- Rehabilitation and veterinary care areas.
The first phase of building will include necessary infrastructure needed to care for residents. This includes the enclosure barriers, infrastructure, lab, medical and sanitation services, food prep services, security, and animal care staff facilities.
Future phases will provide for internship programs, visitors as appropriate to the location, and the kind of equipment (including land and water-based webcams) that will enhance broad and interactive educational outreach.