The first permanent sea sanctuary for whales and dolphins could be a very real possibility after recent talks. According to marine mammal experts, Vancouver, British Columbia looks to be the perfect spot, but other locations are still being considered.
The official announcement for the sanctuary is speculated to come as part of the Society for Marine Mammalogy biennial conference in San Francisco set to be held this December. Co-host for the conference Lori Marino stated, “There are sanctuaries for elephants, primates, tigers, lions and other animals, but there is not a single one for dolphins and whales.” Marino, who is also the executive director of the Utah-based Kimmela Center for Animal Advocacy is also responsible for the proposed location of Vancouver for the sanctuary.
However, Marino and her colleagues have also considered sites on the East and West Coasts of the United States. The location of the sanctuary depends on the needs of the particular species, legal and policy issues, and whether or not there is local public support for it. This is all done in part to not only support dwindling marine mammal populations, but to "shift the business model," so to speak, away from using the animals for entertainment purposes and putting education about the species and the animal's welfare first and foremost.
The major difference between an aquarium and the proposed sanctuary would be that the animals would rarely be put on display. Instead, the animals would have more space, social opportunities, autonomy, natural stimulation and would be allowed to catch their own food.
Another staunch support of the sanctuary, David Phillips, the executive director of the Earth Island Institute states, “While there are some captive dolphins and whales that can’t be released in the wild, there are none that can’t be successfully moved to a sea sanctuary. It would have major and instantaneous benefits to their health and well being.”