Puget Sound orca sanctuary? Nonprofit hosts community meetings about the possibility

SEATTLE -- A local nonprofit is hosting a series of public meetings about their proposed orca sanctuary in several different cities over the next few days.

They say the goal is to provide a halfway facility that isn't a tank but also isn't the open ocean either.

The Whale Sanctuary Project is looking a few different locations for this possible orca sanctuary including British Columbia, Nova Scotia, or here in the Puget Sound - specifically the San Juan Islands.

The idea is to have a place where retired captive orcas, or ones who need extra care, can be taken care of and have more space to roam around and get acclimated to their natural habitat.

“We want to give them as much of a natural environment as much as we can, but still care for them, still feed them, and just do what others have done successfully with elephants and bears and other large mammals,” said Lori Marino, founder of the Whale Sanctuary Project.

“Not only are we looking at a whale sanctuary, but we want to have a rehab component with it. So, it acts as a sort of safety net for the southern residents, " the group’s lead field coordinator Jeff Foster explained.

What they're proposing is a 60 to 100-acre seaside sanctuary that houses free-ranging orcas who need special assistance. There will be full-service veterinary care and urgent care as well.

For those that need rehabilitation, they would care for them and release them in the wild.
But for those who have been raised in captivity, the group says it would be irresponsible for them to be released into the wild because the whales to know how to hunt.

Another meeting will be held Wednesday night at Ocean-5 in Gig Harbor at 7 p.m. and another one is planned for Seattle Thursday and on the San Juan Islands on Sunday.