World’s First Sanctuary for Captive Belugas is Set to Open in Iceland

Animal advocates have long been pushing for the creation of sea sanctuaries to give captive whales and dolphins a better, and more natural life. Now we can celebrate the official launch of the world’s first sanctuary, which will soon be home to two captive belugas.

The sanctuary will be located in a secluded bay on the island of Heimaey, one of the Westman Islands, located off the southern coast of Iceland, and is being created through a partnership between Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC) and SEA LIFE Trust.

“We’re delighted to break new ground in marine animal welfare with the creation of the world’s first sanctuary for beluga whales. This project has been years in the making and is a pioneering solution to how the aquarium industry can re-shape the futures of whales in captivity,” said Andy Bool, head of SEA LIFE Trust.

Two 12-year-old females, known as Little Grey and Little White, will be its first residents. The pair, who are currently living at the Changfeng Ocean World in Shanghai, China, are expected to arrive next spring.

The location in Klettsvik Bay, which measures up to 32,000 square meters with a depth of up to 10 meters, was chosen because it provides a plenty of space, along with providing a perfect natural sub-Arctic environment, and plenty of plants and wildlife for them to explore.

The two are already being prepared for their 6,000 mile journey and new home with special training to get them ready them for travel, and food to help them bulk up to help keep them insulated in colder waters. After they arrive in Iceland, they’ll be moved to a special pool at the site where they’ll be assessed and get a chance to settle in. There, they’ll continue to put on blubber, get in shape and will be slowly introduced to some of the sea life they’ll soon be encountering for the first time when they’re finally moved to the bay.

Hopefully they will thrive in their new home, and this effort will help set a precedent for other facilities with captive cetaceans to follow. It already represents an exciting shift within the industry, as this project is largely being made possible with funding from Merlin Entertainments, which acquired Changfeng Ocean World in 2012, but does not support keeping whales and dolphins in captivity.

“We have long applauded the commitment of Merlin and the SEA LIFE TRUST to find a better, alternative future for these belugas, which is in line with our concerns about the keeping of whales and dolphins in captivity around the world, and the need to find a solution for the thousands of individuals held,” said Chris Butler-Stroud, WDC chief executive. “We are proud to have been a partner from the very beginning in this important project to improve beluga welfare and hope it will create a blueprint for further such sanctuaries for belugas and other captive whales and dolphins, which are desperately needed to address the risks captivity poses to whale and dolphin health and welfare.”

Photo credit: Thinkstock

82 comments

Daniela M
Daniela M4 months ago

Wonderful news! Do check out The Whale Sanctuary; they are trying to do the same for whales, orcas and beluga whales!

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Linda D
Linda D4 months ago

All sea creatures should be free, why do we need to see them in captivity.

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Virginia Abreu de Paula
Virginia Paula4 months ago

Praying. Thise adorable creatures deserve a better life.

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Anette S
Anette S4 months ago

Oh how beautiful would it be, this would be the beginning of the end of useless torment.

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Maria P
Past Member 4 months ago

thanks for this

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Kate G
Kate G4 months ago

I have seen belugas in an aquarium--they are so beautiful,

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Lin Clarke
Lin Clarke4 months ago

Iceland?????? Seriously? Let's hope they don't bludgeon these whales to death in the name of tradition!!!!

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Cindy S
Cindy Smith4 months ago

I agree ann!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Sandra V
Sandra Vito4 months ago

Thanks

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Sandra V
Sandra Vito4 months ago

Thanks

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