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Group narrows search for beluga retirement site to two sites off Nova Scotia

Beluga whales swim in front of Tadoussac Que. Aug. 15, 2014. A conservation group has selected two sites in Nova Scotia where it could establish a kind of ocean retirement home for beluga whales raised in captivity at marine parks. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot

HALIFAX — A conservation group has selected two sites in Nova Scotia where it could establish a kind of ocean retirement home for beluga whales raised in captivity.

After three years of searching, the U.S.-based Whale Sanctuary Project has confirmed it is talking to residents and government officials in the Sheet Harbour and Sherbrooke areas, which are both located along the province’s rugged Eastern Shore.

Lori Marino, president of the non-profit group, says a formal proposal won’t be submitted to regulators until more research is completed and community support is secured.

However, Marino says her group is leaning toward a site south of Sheet Harbour, just off Mushaboom, mainly because its nearby islands provide protection from the open ocean.

Marino says the tentative $20-million plan is to use nets to create a 40-hectare enclosure in an inshore area known as The Gates, which is between Malagash Island and West Gibbs Island.

If approved, the site could be used to offer sanctuary to between six and eight belugas that would come from the roughly 200 belugas now being kept in marine parks and aquariums around the world.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 6, 2019.

The Canadian Press