Over the last year, using nautical charts, computer maps and recommendations from residents, we researched more than 130 possible sanctuary locations in Washington State, British Columbia and Nova Scotia.
We narrowed the list down to 30 sites and then visited all of them.
Several that would be ideal for the whales would not be so good for the humans caring for them as they are too remote for year-round living and they lack basic infrastructure.
As we eliminated some, we also added a few more. And we’re now at the point where we are focused on three central considerations: physical criteria, potential impacts on wildlife, and compatibility with the local community.
Physical criteria: These include basic oceanographic and hydrologic analyses of depth, sea-floor conditions, tides and currents, run-off and pollution, flora and fauna, as well as where and how to build the nets, and access to fresh water and electric power.
Impacts on Wildlife: In addition to being concerned about how sanctuary residents might be affected by local wildlife, we also have to evaluate potential impacts they may have on free-ranging animals outside of the sanctuary.
This is particularly sensitive in areas that are critical habitat for endangered populations like the Southern Resident Killer Whales in the Northwest and North Atlantic right whales in the Northeast.
Community Interests: Equally important are the concerns of the local community: commercial and recreational fishing interests, access for boats, population density along the shoreline and other “stakeholder interests.”
So, it’s not just a matter of our selecting a site; the site also needs to select the sanctuary. When a local community embraces the idea of having a whale sanctuary and sees it as a long-term benefit to all that they hold dear for their community, then we have a partnership that will lead to successfully creating a home for captive orcas and belugas.
Once we have determined that a site is suitable both for the whales and for the human community, we can then proceed to apply for the necessary permits, acquisition of the actual site, and the most exciting part of all: creating the sanctuary itself and welcoming the first whales.
- 100 acres of water
- Minimum depth of 50 feet for at least half the sanctuary
- Protection from extreme weather
- Free of sewage, pollutants and noise
- Good flushing rate
- Ability to create separate areas for medical and management
- Not a lot of human activity or boat traffic.
This post is excerpted from our Fall Newsletter. We send the complete newsletter to everyone who’s donated in the last year, so if you’d like to receive a copy, please make your donation now. Your gift, large or small, will be worth twice as much since our lead sponsor, Munchkin, Inc, is matching all donations this year up to a total of $300,000.
Thank you for supporting the Whale Sanctuary Project.