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WDC joins US network to help rescue whales and dolphins

Goods news for whales and dolphins in the US. WDC's team there has officially joined...
Bryde's whale

Whalers in Japan return to port with over 200 whales

Japan's factory whaling ship, the "Nisshin Maru" returned to port on November 14th at the...
North Atlantic right whale

Success! Court stops US government attempt to block whale protection lawsuit

A federal court in the US has dismissed attempts by Joe Biden's administration to halt...

More good news for WDC’s End Captivity tour operators campaign

WDC's ongoing campaign asking tour operators not to promote cruel whale and dolphin captivity shows...
All policy news
  • All policy news
  • Create healthy seas
  • End captivity
  • Prevent deaths in nets
  • Stop whaling
  • Strandings
Port River dolphins

New report reveals 100,000 dolphins and small whales hunted every year

When you hear the words ‘dolphin hunts’ it’s likely that you think of Japan or...

Minke whale hunts stop in Iceland

Iceland’s commercial hunt of minke whales has ended for this year. The common minke whale is the...

Pregnant whales once again a target for Japanese whalers

Figures from Japan's whaling expedition to Antarctica during the 2017/18 austral summer have revealed that...

Did Icelandic whalers really kill a blue whale?

*Warning - this blog contains an image that you may find upsetting* They say a...

Icelandic whalers breach international law and kill iconic, protected whale by mistake

Icelandic whalers out hunting fin whales for the first time in three years appear to...

Doubts remain after Icelandic Marine Institute claims slaughtered whale was a hybrid not a blue

Experts remain sceptical of initial test results issued by the Icelandic Marine Institute, which indicate...

Japan set to resume commercial whaling

Reports from Japan suggest that the government they will formally propose plans to resume commercial...

End the whale hunts! Icelandic fin whaler isolated as public mood shifts

Here’s a sight I hoped never again to witness. A boat being scrubbed and repainted...

Australian Government to block Japanese whaling proposal

Japanese Government officials have reportedly confirmed that they will propose the resumption of commercial whaling...

Icelandic fin whale hunting to resume

Iceland’s only fin whaling company, Hvalur hf,  announced today that it will resume fin whaling...

SOS alert for whales off Norway!

I have to admit to bitter disappointment when I arrived in Tromsø, northern Norway, a...

Norway's whaling season begins

April 1st saw the start of the whaling season in Norway. Despite a widely-accepted international moratorium...

First beluga whale sanctuary officially launched

The world’s first open water sanctuary for beluga whales, a project we have been working on for many years, was officially launched today.

Created in partnership with WDC, the SEA LIFE TRUST Beluga Whale Sanctuary will be located in Iceland and is one of the biggest developments in captive whale and dolphin care and protection in decades, and the first of its kind to be created for whales and dolphins. It is hoped the project will help to encourage the rehabilitation of more captive whales into natural environments in the future, and one day bring an end to whale and dolphin entertainment shows.

The sanctuary will become the new home to its first residents, two female beluga whales, Little Grey and Little White in Spring 2019.

Currently located at Changfeng Ocean World in Shanghai, China, Little Grey and Little White will take part in an incredible 6,000-mile journey and will be transported by air, land and sea to a large sanctuary in a natural bay at Heimaey, one of the Westman Islands, located off the southern coast of Iceland.

The secluded bay, which measures up to 32,000 sqm with a depth of up to 10m was chosen to provide a more natural sub-Arctic environment and wild habitat for these amazing whales to call home.

Andy Bool, head of SEA LIFE Trust, said: “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.

“This is a truly global effort and working with our partners, leading veterinarians and marine experts, we believe providing a more natural habitat for Little Grey and Little White to dive into cool waters and interact with the natural environment will greatly enhance their quality of life.”

Work on the SEA LIFE TRUST Beluga Whale Sanctuary is already underway after planning permission was granted in April.

Backed by a donation from Merlin Entertainments and supported by the world’s largest chain of family aquariums, SEA LIFE, the sanctuary will comprise of a stunning natural sea inlet in Klettsvik Bay and include a landside care facility and visitor centre.

Chris Butler-Stroud, WDC chief executive, said: “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.

“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.”

Little Grey and Little White are 12 years old and each have very different and unique personalities. While Little White is shy and reserved, Little Grey is much more vocal and mischievous.

They are taking part in a special training programme designed by a team of world leading veterinarians and cetacean experts to help them adjust for the journey ahead, as well as adapt and acclimatise to North Atlantic waters. This includes:

  • Introducing the belugas to specialist equipment including stretchers and platform training to prepare them for transportation
  • Training the whales to hold their breath underwater for longer to get them ready for diving
  • Building the belugas’ strength through fast swims in their current pool to help them adapt to the tides and current of their new home 
  • Increasing the belugas’ calorie intake of a rich diet of herring and capelin to support weight gain and extra blubber for colder waters they will experience in Iceland

Rob Hicks, director of Merlin’s animal and welfare department, said: “This is a complex and logistically challenging rehoming project of two well-loved beluga whales. Little Grey and Little White are highly intelligent marine mammals and are fast learners, but we are taking all precautions to protect their health and well-being.

“The aquarium team at Changfeng Ocean World have been very helpful in supporting this project and we will be helping each beluga to get ready for this landmark journey and their new environment. A team of vets will be with the whales at all times during transit to monitor their welfare to ensure their relocation is successful.”

A sustainable rehoming solution for the belugas has been explored ever since Merlin Entertainments acquired Changfeng Ocean World in 2012, driven by its philosophy to not keep cetaceans such as whales and dolphins in captivity. 

The Sanctuary is set to be completed in 2019, and while it will offer limited and discreet viewing of the whales for visitors to help off-set long term running costs, this will be very carefully controlled to ensure the two whales are not disturbed in their new and very natural environment. 

For more information about the SEA LIFE TRUST Beluga Whale Sanctuary, visit https://www.sealifetrust.org.