14th August 2020

Two beluga whales who spent a lifetime in captivity and endured years of exploitation at the hands of the Sea Life aquarium company, have now finally made their first plunge back into the sea. 

These two whales, named Little White and Little Grey are now being cared for at a sanctuary in Iceland. They arrived at the sanctuary last Spring after a long journey from an aquarium in China, owned by UK company Sea Life. The pair were due to be released into their specially designed sea pen at the sanctuary after a short quarantine, but this was delayed reportedly due to poor weather. Now that day has finally come. 

After a short period in a medical pool inside the bay, the whales will live in their large sea pen in the natural waters in Iceland, where they will be as close to wild as is possible for these individuals, who have spent far too long in captivity. This is a fantastic outcome for these two special whales, especially after the traumatic life they have lived. 

We at Freedom for Animals share our dearest thanks to our supporters who backed our years long campaign calling on Sea Life and parent company, Merlin Entertainments to release these whales to a sanctuary. 

At the aquarium in China, these two whales along with one other individual named JunJun (who sadly died at the aquarium in 2017, after 10 years) were made to perform shows to noisy crowds up to 3 times a day. Undercover footage obtained by Freedom for Animals in 2014 showed the whales being made to perform tricks such as jumping for food, being made to ‘sing’ on command and pushing a human through the water using their heads. 

This investigation exposed the hypocritical stance of Sea Life and Merlin who claimed to have a position against the captivity of whales and dolphins (cetaceans). This pressured the company into taking action and after many years of campaigning by animal advocates, they finally moved the whales to a sanctuary. 

A note on the sanctuary and the Sea Life Trust. 

It is important to understand that this sanctuary is being run by the Sea Life Trust - a charity set up by Sea Life and Merlin, supported by a charity called WDC (Whale and Dolphin Conservation). As outlined last year by our then Campaigns Director Nicola O’Brien, we believe that this sanctuary should be run completely independently from Sea Life to ensure that these whales are left to live in peace. It is also utterly disappointing to see that an aquarium has been set up on site at the sanctuary which means hundreds of other individuals will be held captive. This is no sanctuary for those animals who are now facing a life of exploitation. 

This is true of the entire Sea Life brand, who exist as a business to provide animals for humans to look at. Animals who are taken from the wild to provide entertainment, and who endure a lifetime of deprivation. This company is not in any way ‘anti-captivity’ and we have shown that animals suffer greatly at their hands.

But we cannot deny that this sanctuary will make a difference. Not just for these two whales or the other whales the sanctuary says it could possibly take in in future, but also because of the incredibly clear message it sends to the world: that cetaceans should not be held captive, those who do this will be forced to stop and there is a future for those animals currently being exploited.