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An Oasis For Orcas: Plans For World's First Retirement Facility Unveiled

| David Grimm
Topics: Dolphin and Whale Trade, Keiko, Orcas, Sanctuaries, SeaWorld

Science Magazine’s “An Oasis for Orcas” has given a big boost to the launch of the Whale Sanctuary Project. Click here for the full announcement. Some key points to keep in mind:

The efforts we led to build a rehab facility, sea pen, and netted off bays in Iceland and Norway were far more difficult than anything we will face in establishing a retirement center in North American. Keiko’s netted off bay was in his native waters in Iceland, in one of the most inaccessible and inhospitable weather areas known to man.  And yet we did it safely and successfully.

Further, the costs cited in the article are, in my opinion, far higher than will be actually needed to construct and operate a North America Sea Sanctuary for whales.

Of course the costs cannot be precisely determined until the site is selected, and we must prepare for the lifetime care of whales and dolphins with long lifespans.  Nonetheless, the true costs for the operation, in my estimation, will be in the range of $20 million or less.  This is ten times less than the numbers cited in the Science article.

For comparison purposes, SeaWorld was preparing to spend $100 million simply on construction costs to expand their concrete tanks for orca whales at a single facility in San Diego!

Read on for the Science Magazine Report.

~ David Phillips, Director, International Marine Mammal Project and Whale Sanctuary Project Board Member.


An oasis for orcas

By David Grimm

How do you retire a 5-ton whale? That's a question some advocates and scientists have been asking themselves in the wake of SeaWorld's historic decision in March to stop breeding the 29 orcas in its care. Although the chain of theme parks says it will hold onto the animals until they die—which for many could be decades from now—a few groups want to fly them to a sanctuary in the sea, a kind of wildlife refuge for these intelligent and far-ranging creatures. The problem? No such sanctuary exists.

But the groups are laying plans. Last week, about three dozen scientists, veterinarians, and engineers announced the formation of the Whale Sanctuary Project (WSP), a Washington, D.C.–based nonprofit. The group is scouting sanctuary locations along North America's coasts—including coves and small groups of islands that could be cordoned off—with fundraising to follow. Other organizations have proposed similar ideas.

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