Newsletter, September 1, 2016
This is a copy of the September 1, 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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Thank you so much for subscribing to the Whale Sanctuary Project newsletter. Here’s some of what’s been happening over the last month:
This month our President, Dr. Lori Marino, and board member Charles Vinick visited Nova Scotia as part of the whale sanctuary site selection process.
They were joined by two expert members of the advisory group: Catherine Kinsman, who lives in N.S. and has extensive experience with whales, especially belugas; and Kathryn Sussman, who is part of Zoocheck and helped make connections with the various government officials with whom we need to be working. The executive director of Zoocheck, Rob Laidlaw, also came in from Toronto to advise and lend support during our meetings.
Nova Scotia is beautiful, with hundreds of coves, bays and inlets. Some of these had been highlighted by our Google Earth survey team; others were recommendations by Catherine and others. Some of them will be ruled out by the fact that coastal waters are too shallow for whales to be comfortable, but we have more exploration to do as we hone in on a few promising sites.
The officials we met could not have been more welcoming and helpful. In particular they believe that a seaside whale sanctuary would be an asset to the local community and its economy.
Over the next three months, we’ll be visiting three more regions: Maine on the east coast, and Washington and British Columbia on the west. And then we’ll be narrowing the list down to a small handful of sites that merit detailed environmental and physical oceanography evaluation, as well as more extensive engagement with local communities.
When they hear about The Whale Sanctuary Project, many people assume that it’s primarily about orcas. But beluga whales are also central to the work of the project, and the waters of Nova Scotia are among their home territories, which makes the region well-suited to a seaside sanctuary.
At least 75 belugas are currently held in captivity in the U.S. and Canada, and their wellbeing is just as poor as it is for orcas. In captivity, their lives are significantly shortened, and they have an especially difficult time breeding successfully because of their very specific social needs. For example, they need an intact social group, including family members, in order to choose mates and raise their young properly. These conditions almost never exist in theme parks.
In the wild there are also belugas who live as “lone sociables” rather than in family groups, and they sometimes interact with people. In 1993, Catherine Kinsman was authorized by the Canadian government to watch over an orphan known as Wilma, who had been trying to make friends with fishermen and tourists for five years. (You can read a 2012 interview with Catherine here.) Belugas like Wilma sometimes end up in need of special care, and a seaside sanctuary in Nova Scotia could be of benefit for them.
501(c)(3) status approved
Our application for tax-exempt status has been approved by the I.R.S. Many thanks to our legal counsel, Don Baur, and his team for helping to put the application together and getting it on a fast track. (Note: The I.R.S. will be treating your donations, regardless of whether they were made prior to approval, as tax-deductible.)
You’ve read about Catherine Kinsman above, and we’d like to honor her as our Volunteer-of-the-Month. Catherine has a wealth of expertise on the coastal bays and inlets of Nova Scotia, as well as the communities of people who live there. She is co-Founder of the Whale Stewardship Project, and co-initiated the world’s first long-term study of human-beluga interactive behavior, of which her work with Wilma was an important part. Thanks so much for all your help, Catherine!
The Orca Protection Act
Authored by Assembly Member Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica), this bill prohibits the breeding and theatrical performance of captive orcas in California, as well as their export, consistent with federal law, out of North America. The bill, first introduced in 2014, was initially tabled for “interim study.” Bloom reintroduced the bill this year, co-sponsored by the Animal Welfare Institute, and it was steered through the Assembly and the Senate without opposition.
Thank You, Thank You!
There’s more news every week in the general media about how nonhuman animals are being retired from zoos and entertainment facilities to sanctuaries. 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.