Clearing The Water On Marine Mammal Sanctuaries
By Marilee Menard
In 2016, the National Aquarium in Baltimore (NAIB) announced plans to build a “sanctuary” for its dolphins by 2020. NAIB has yet to select a location. It has reportedly rejected over 50 sites because the animals’ safety could be jeopardized by storms and/or algae blooms. Infectious disease is another issue; marine mammals in human care are protected from illnesses to which they could be exposed in the wild.
The Sea Life Trust announced in 2018 that it would create the world’s first “sanctuary” for two beluga whales in partnership with Whale and Dolphin Conservation. The animals were recently transported to the new facility in Iceland from Changfeng Ocean World in Shanghai, China. The Trust was founded by Merlin Entertainments’ Sea Life Centres, a chain of attractions that includes Ocean World, and a donation from Merlin.
Calling these facilities “sanctuaries” is a misnomer.
The Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries certifies sanctuaries throughout the world, defining them as a “safe haven for animals in need for any amount of time and follows the principles of a true sanctuary,” citing specifically those that have been abandoned, abused, or injured. Similarly, dictionaries define them as “a tract of land where birds and wildlife, especially those hunted for sport, can breed and take refuge in safety from hunters” (Dictionary.com); “a place where injured or unwanted animals…are cared for” (MacMillan Dictionary); and “a reservation where animals or birds are sheltered for breeding purposes and may not be hunted or trapped” (Collins English Dictionary).