[Editor’s note: In response to the Cooperator’s February 7, 20198 article, “Whales and the MPA?” Whale Sanctuary Project President Lori Marino submitted the following response clarifying questions about the Project’s plans and philosophy.]
[For all stories on the MPA, go to Debating the Eastern Shore Islands Marine Protected Area].
We at the Whale Sanctuary Project have been very fortunate to meet with several communities along the Atlantic coast of Nova Scotia, and, last night and the night before, on the Eastern Shore in Sheet Harbour and Sherbrooke. We were honoured to be able to present our project to so many community residents and to start a dialogue with them.
Through the process of speaking personally with coastal communities and especially the fishing community, we have come to fully appreciate why fishermen are wary of new proposals. They’ve heard many proposals before and think project proponents rarely deliver on their promises. Thus, there are some who may not trust our plan to build a single sanctuary of less than ½ km square for 5-8 beluga whales.
But that is indeed all we want to do and all we are proposing. Any more than that is not realistic for us given the expense and the limited “bandwidth” we have as an organization. This is why we are restricting ourselves to one model sanctuary. And, we recognize that even this single sanctuary cannot be done in Nova Scotia without the community embracing it and being proud to be part of it – and that includes the fishermen.
So while we understand why there is mistrust of our motives and plans, we respectfully ask that we let the process proceed so that we can hear each other, work together, and see if we can come to a place of mutual understanding and trust.
In addition, we would like to address some misinterpretations of the kind of facility we are proposing. We are a non-profit organization that will depends entirely on philanthropic donations and endowments to sustain care for the belugas and build the infrastructure of all of our animal care, education, and outreach programs.
As a world-class project that will be revered globally, philanthropic support for the project will come from around the world.
Furthermore, we will uphold the very definition of an authentic sanctuary, which means we will not be using the whales for entertainment or any other exploitive purposes. There will be no performances and no close public interaction with the whales. Visitors will be able to see the whales behaving naturally from a respectful distance and learning so much more about them in the process.
Yes, whale sanctuaries are still captivity. But given that these whales cannot be reintroduced into the ocean to survive on their own, this is an opportunity for them to thrive for the first time in their lives.
And while we are not going to be able to save all the belugas and other whales and dolphins currently living in concrete tanks, the Whale Sanctuary can be a place that shows the world we can do better for these animals. Our engagement in education, promoting respect for whales and the oceans, will also give the next generation of children in the host community and in Nova Scotia a chance to be global leaders in moving towards a better future for whales and dolphins.