Renowned neuroscientist Dr. Lori Marino spoke to the public about the Whale Sanctuary Project at an event presented by the Vancouver Humane Society and the BC SPCA on July 11th. She and the executive director of the project, Charles Vinick, were in British Columbia looking at possible sites for the sanctuary.
The theme of the evening at the Roundhouse in Vancouver was “Reconciliation”, which was introduced by Bob Chamberlin, Chief Councilor of the Kwicksutaineuk Ah-kwa-mish First Nation. Chief Chamberlin discussed the reconciliation between Canada and its First Nations people, and how this should expand towards a reconciliation between all humans and the natural world. Recognition of this planet as a living being, and respecting the animals and nature, is a necessary step towards this reconciliation.
Dr. Marino continued on this theme by describing the Whale Sanctuary Project, which aims to create a seaside sanctuary for formerly captive cetaceans (whales and dolphins) that maximizes the well-being and autonomy of its residents. It will create an environment as close as possible to their natural habitat.
Other sites under consideration are along the coasts of Washington State and Nova Scotia. There is a thorough list of requirements that a site must meet and Dr. Marino and her team have been working closely with First Nations communities to ensure that the project is adopted rather than tolerated. They hope to complete the site selection portion of this project by the end of the year.
Once the sanctuary site has been selected they will begin a three-phase process to ensure it is ready for its first resident by 2019. They will first focus on development of infrastructure and veterinary facilities, followed by administration and housing. The final phase will develop educational and visitor programs. The sanctuary will allow the public to see cetaceans in a natural setting and will focus on education and conservation, not entertainment. Dr. Marino and her team believe a sanctuary is about the animals, not about the people, and they will work to create a better life for these highly intelligent animals.