A Seaside Sanctuary Will Soon House Retired Performance Orcas

In November 2015, the CEO of children’s toy company Munchkin, Steve Dunn, made SeaWorld an offer: Retire your orcas to a seaside sanctuary and we’ll foot the bill and pay for that sanctuary to be built. SeaWorld turned down the deal but Dunn stood by his commitment, and now that sanctuary is actually becoming a reality.

“Munchkin has long favored a natural coastal ocean sanctuary as an alternative solution to maintaining orcas in captivity, so we are eager to support The Whale Sanctuary Project‘s efforts on behalf of cetaceans retired from the entertainment industry,” said Dunn of the partnership with the U.S.-based nonprofit that will bring the project to fruition. “We are dedicated not only to these majestic mammals, but also to helping parents and children understand what they can do to help orcas and others live the rest of their lives happily and safely.”

The sanctuary will house whales and dolphins retired from aquariums and theme parks in a sectioned off area of the ocean. The animals would be able to live in as natural an environment as possible without being completely free since many have lived in captivity their whole lives and wouldn’t survive in the wild. An engineered structure that resembles nets will surround the space, giving animals a large area to move around “that dwarves even the largest tank in existence,” explains The Whale Sanctuary Project’s president Dr. Lori Marino, PhD.

“The deepest tank [at SeaWorld] is 35 feet deep,” she adds. “When you consider the size of orcas, it’s not much space. We want the animals to be able to dive deeper and know they can submerge and stay underwater if they want to and that’s something they’re being deprived of.”

Another priority for the animals is to be able to stay away from humans if they choose to. While the sanctuary will be open to the public, there will be no interactions with the animals except for medical purposes and absolutely no animal performances.

People will still be able to see the animals from a distance, however, and learn about them in an outreach facility that will use top of the line technology to entertain and educate through virtual reality and other immersion opportunities.

The sanctuary will also treat and rehabilitate injured marine animals with the possibility of releasing them back into the wild once recovered.

Unlike most retirees, the future residents of the sanctuary will not be moving south, though. The project is currently in the process of researching locations in the Maine and Nova Scotia areas on the East Coast and the Washington area on the West Coast since the animals need cold water to survive. Once a shortlist of possible locations has been identified, the team of scientists, clinicians, engineers, attorneys, business experts and marine animal advocates will move on to the next phase of actually visiting them in 2017. Then, once all permits and regulations have been acquired, work can actually start on building the sanctuary.

Marino estimates if everything goes as planned, the sanctuary will be completed in three to five years, but a project of this magnitude does not come cheap. The overall cost of it could be up to $20 million, says Marino, $1 million of which Munchkin has pledged to contribute. Once the sanctuary is up and running, it will rely on endowments, donations and public support to cover its costs.

Despite the now concrete plans for the building of the sanctuary, Marino says SeaWorld has still not reached out to talk about relocating its orcas but the door is open whenever they decide to do it.

“When they want to sit down and talk, we’re here.”

Photo Credit: ThinkStock


Elisa F
Elisa F1 years ago

Love to Orcas :)

Elisa F
Elisa F1 years ago

Thanks for sharing :)

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

john prini
john prini2 years ago

Finally a GOOD NeWS story regarding ORCAs in JAIL, NOW Just to CONVINCE these WHALE JAIL OWNERS to give them up. ATTITUDES are Slowly CHANGING as to IS an ORCA in a CONCRETE FISHBOWL ENTERTAINMENT WE WANT our CHILDREN to ENJOY? perpetuating ATTITUDES of CRUELTY to INTELLIGENT ANIMALS with EMOTIONS not unlike HUMANS MUST STOP. thx NL ........>.............>...........

Susan T.
Susan T2 years ago

so, how are these people trustworthy? to care for these animals?

federico bortoletto

Buone notizie!!!

Yolanda Aguilar
Yolanda Aguilar2 years ago

Excellent news !!! We need more persons like Steve Dunn.

Philip Watling
Philip Watling2 years ago

Great news, Orcas are amazing animals.

Ella P.
Ella P2 years ago

I sincerely hope that as many orcas and dolphins as possible will be retired soon! They deserve so much better than an aquarium tank.

Miss D.
Shari F2 years ago

Because Palace Entertainment are the new owners