Iceland to open beluga whale sanctuary

New whale sanctuary in Iceland aims to encourage the rehabilitation of more captive whales into natural environments and to bring an end to whale and dolphin shows

Dolphins, whales, beluga, whale sanctuary, Iceland

Sea Life Trust has announced today it will create the world’s first open water sanctuary for beluga whales in Iceland. Created in partnership with Whale and Dolphin Conversation (WDC) the program is the first of its kind to be created for cetaceans.

Two female beluga whales, Little Grey and Little White will be taken on a 6000 mile journey from China to the secluded bay in Iceland in spring 2019 as part of the ground-breaking plan, designed to lead the way for more captive whales and dolphins to be released in the future.

Andy Bool, head of Sea Life Trust says the Beluga Whale Sanctuary is a pioneering solution to how the aquarium industry can reshape the future of whales in captivity. The secluded bay, at Heimaey, one of the Westman Islands, located off the southern coast of Iceland measures up to 32,000 sqm with a depth of up to 10m and was chosen to provide a more natural sub-Arctic environment and wild habitat for the beluga whales to call home.

“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,” says Bool.

whale sanctuary, iceland, Created in partnership with WDC, the sea life trust, Beluga Whale SanctuarySanctuary to be located in Klettsvik Bay
The sanctuary has been backed by Merlin Entertainments and supported by Sea Life, the world’s largest chain of family aquariums, and will include a stunning natural sea inlet in Klettsvik Bay and a landside care facility and visitor centre.

WDC Chief Executive Chris Butler-Stroud says: “We have long applauded the commitment of 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.

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. 

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