Newsletter, July 2016

This is a copy of the July 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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WSP Newsletter

July 24, 2016

Hello Everyone,

Thank you so much for subscribing to the Whale Sanctuary Project newsletter. Our two primary goals for this year are:

  • Site selection: completing a high-level review of coves, bays and inlets so we can narrow the search for the optimum site to three or four candidates that merit detailed, on-the-ground inspection;
  • Strategic plan: completing a detailed three-to-five-year plan for the building of the first sanctuary, transporting the first residents, and being ready to care for them over the long term.

Site Selection

Since orcas and beluga whales are cold-water animals, the search is focused primarily on Washington State and British Columbia on the West Coast, and Maine, Newfoundland and Nova Scotia on the East Coast. These regions have literally thousands of coves, bays and inlets that need to be surveyed. Happily we don’t have to visit them all, since most of the initial survey can be done on a laptop computer using Google Earth with some professional overlays that show detailed information. In last month’s newsletter, we outlined some of the main criteria we have to consider in choosing a site.

Board member Dr. Naomi Rose has now developed a detailed list of criteria. Here are some of them, to give you an idea of what we have to look for:

  • Water temperature in the range of 10° – 30° C and salinity of 25-35 ppm
  • Protection from extreme weather
  • Avoidance of sewage and chemical pollutants
  • Avoidance of acoustic pollution (major boat traffic, etc.)
  • Good tidal flushing of the site
  • Minimum depth of 15 meters for at least half of the sanctuary
  • Ability to create enclosed areas for medical and management purposes
  • Able to hold a minimum of five individuals
  • No ice cover
  • Accessibility, including reasonably close airport for the whales
  • Utilities and infrastructure
  • Access for visitors.

The initial search online is led by board member Charles Vinick, who was Director of the Keiko Project from 1998 to 2002, and is being conducted by professional engineers with help from interns. (If you have experience with Google Earth, are good with detailed spreadsheets, comfortable following precise instructions, can volunteer for at least 10 hours a week, and would like to participate, please email us.)

Strategic Plan

Members of the board and key advisors gathered in Los Angeles for a two-day meeting led by Michael Kleeman, a member of the board of The Marine Mammal Center and a management consultant to numerous technology companies. Michael combines skill at strategic planning with passion for marine mammals, and it would be hard to find someone more qualified for this task.

Next, Michael will be conducting in-depth interviews with key experts in site selection, transport, veterinary care, public outreach, etc. in order to put the plan together.

Superpod 5

Five years ago, about a dozen animal protection advocates, scientists and former trainers at SeaWorld met for a week on San Juan Island off the coast of Washington State. (Also present was Gabriela Cowperthwaite, who was conducting interviews for what would become the documentary movie Blackfish.)

One day, on a whale watching trip, we were privileged to see a Superpod – i.e. a gathering of all three pods (extended family groups) of the Southern Resident orcas. In their honor, we humorously called our own group the “Superpod”, and the group has met on the island every year since then, By now it has grown into a veritable Superpod: this year’s gathering – Superpod 5 – had more than 250 attendees and took over the local community theater for three days of presentations on topics ranging from conservation of wild salmon (the southern resident orcas’ only dietary item) to advocacy efforts on behalf of marine mammals in captivity around the world.

Among the presentations was an introduction to The Whale Sanctuary Project by Dr. Lori Marino, in which she described the criteria for an authentic wild animal sanctuary, the kinds of expertise needed to achieve our vision, and the cutting-edge visitor education center that will be part of the sanctuary. The conference had a large student attendance, and Dr. Marino worked with conference organizers Kim Ventre and Jeff Ventre to offer a full day of talks and discussions about how college and graduate students can use their education, training, skills and credentials to bring animal advocacy further into the mainstream.

Advisor Spotlight

Our advisory group includes 40 members, with skills ranging from engineering to veterinary sciences to marine mammal law. This month, we introduce you to Kathryn Sussman, who is working with Zoocheck, Canada’s chief animal protection charity, to close the wild capture loophole in the current Canadian legislation. Kathryn is advising us on potential sites in Canada and on legal and policy issues.

National Aquarium to Create Dolphin Sanctuary

The National Aquarium in Baltimore has announced plans to build a seaside sanctuary, either in Florida or the Caribbean, and to move all eight of the dolphins currently at the aquarium to the new sanctuary by 2020. This is a major decision and the first of its kind by an aquarium or marine park in North America.

While The Whale Sanctuary Project is focused on creating a cold-water sanctuary, suited to orcas and belugas, the National Aquarium’s sanctuary will be a warm-water facility, one that’s best for bottlenose dolphins. Taken together, these two projects will show that there is an alternative for the three cetacean species most abundant in theme parks and aquariums.

The New Whale Sanctuary Project Logo

Special thanks to Bob Wolf for creating our new logo (see the top of this newsletter). Bob has designed logos for such iconic brands as Bank of America, Unisys and Lockheed Martin. We’re honored to have him as part of The Whale Sanctuary Project.

Thank You, Thank You!

Scarcely a week goes by without news of how the zoo and entertainment model is giving way 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 for cetaceans.

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. For daily updates, visit The Whale Sanctuary Project on Facebook and Twitter.