Newsletter, June 2016


This is a copy of the June 2016 newsletter as sent to all subscribers. To subscribe, just fill in your email address in the box to the right.

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June 7, 2016

Hello, Everyone,

Thank you so much for subscribing to the Whale Sanctuary Project newsletter. Here’s some of what’s going on this month:

“Location, Location, Location”

Choosing the right home starts with finding the right location. And site selection for a whale sanctuary begins with satellite maps in the sky, and ends with boats on the water.

Right now, the site selection team is poring over satellite maps of Washington State and British Columbia on the West Coast, and Maine, Newfoundland and Nova Scotia on the East Coast. If you look at any map of these coastlines, you’ll see that there are hundreds, maybe thousands, of coves and inlets and bays, any one of which might be the perfect location for a sanctuary.

The geographical and engineering analysis is led by team member Michael Parks, who engineered the building, installation and operation of a sea pen for the orca Keiko prior to his return to the wild in 1998.

Things we have to consider: Good satellite maps don’t just show you the surface of the water; they give you lots of critical information like depth, tidal flows and temperature. We need to know things like:

  • Whether the water is deep enough for the new residents to be able to dive comfortably. Killer whales in the wild routinely dive to depths of more than 300 feet. The sanctuary doesn’t need to be that deep, but certainly a lot more than the 35 feet or less that they have at a marine park.
  • Winter water temperature. While the residents will be cold-water animals, we need to be sure the water won’t ice over (which would prevent the residents from coming to the surface to breathe).
  • What kind of tidal flow there is. It needs to be strong enough to keep the water healthy, but not so strong during a storm that it could break the nets that separate the sanctuary from the open ocean.
  • Proximity to human civilization. We need to be reasonably close to human habitation so we’re not having to put in roads and power and other infrastructure from far away. And there needs to be an airport nearby to fly in new arrivals.

And beyond the mapping side of things, there are other considerations like the need to meet all relevant local and governmental rules and regulations.

So we begin with desktop research using a computer platform called Smart Sheets (a kind of souped-up version of Excel), where our marine engineering and data analysis experts gather data from Google Earth and Geographic Information Systems to compile and analyze maps of the hundreds of possible locations.

They’re aiming to have all of the data inputted and weighted for importance by the end of the year, so they can produce a short list of three to five sites. Then, early in 2017, we’ll start the on-the-ground stage of things: visiting each site, putting boats on the water (and maybe planes in the air), doing environmental tests, and meeting with local people and governments to ensure they’re on board and enthusiastic about the project.

Only then are we ready to choose the “winning” site … and to start building the sanctuary itself.

Q&A on Facebook

Wednesday June 8th: Whale Sanctuary Project Director Dr. Lori Marino will be on our Facebook page from 1 p.m. to 2.30 p.m. ET. She’ll be delighted to answer your questions about whales and dolphins and about the sanctuary.

See You at Superpod!

Several members of The Whale Sanctuary Project team will be at the annual gathering of orca enthusiasts on San Juan Island, Washington, July 18–22. It’s open to everyone and you’ll be able to meet an international group of scientists, filmmakers, authors, journalists, former trainers, naturalists, orca advocates and people who want to see killer whales in their natural home.

From whale watching to socializing to presentations, it’s a full week that helps to protect orcas in their natural habitat and bring an end to cetacean captivity.

This year is Superpod 5, and there’s more about it here.

Scholar-Advocacy Conference

The Superpod gathering includes an optional one-day Scholar-Advocacy Conference on marine mammals. If you’re a student or young professional working on marine mammal protection, conservation, welfare and rights by applying your education and skills in any number of areas from science to business to filmmaking, it’s an opportunity to share your work with others of like mind.

The conference is organized by Whale Sanctuary Project director Dr. Lori Marino. Check out the details and the call for abstracts here.

Advisor Spotlight

Our advisory group includes 37 members, with skills ranging from engineering to marine mammal law. This month, we introduce you to Dr. Hal Whitehead, a professor at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, whose research focuses on social organization and cultural transmission among deep-water whales. Hal spends much of his time on the ocean with his co-author, Luke Rendell, and their latest book, The Cultural Lives of Whales and Dolphins is a fascinating insight into the lives of these cognitively complex, deeply social animals.

Thank You, Thank You!

There’s been lots in the news recently about how we need to move from a zoo and entertainment model to a sanctuary model. There are already sanctuaries for elephants, big cats, great apes and other land-based animals, but with The Whale Sanctuary Project, we’re looking to build the first North American seaside sanctuary.

Your donation, large or small, makes it all possible. Thank you so much for all your help and support.

Michael Mountain
Whale Sanctuary Project Outreach

P.S. Check out the daily updates on Facebook and Twitter.