17th June 2019

Two beluga whales, Little White and Little Grey, have today embarked on a 6000 mile journey from China to Iceland. There, they will live out the rest of their days in a sanctuary sea pen.

The whales have been released from a life of daily performances for the public, at a UK owned aquarium based in Shanghai, China. The centre is owned by Merlin Entertainments, the owner of the SEA LIFE aquarium brand.

The whales will live in a bay, which measures 32,000 sq m and 30ft deep, with a portion of the sea closed off from the open ocean by a specially designed net. As the whales cannot be released completely into the wild, this gives them a life in the wild as close as possible. Other wildlife will live naturally in the bay with them including fish, crustaceans, starfish and other animals.

The beluga sanctuary. SEA LIFE TRUST Beluga Whale Sanctuary

The journey to the sanctuary will involve travelling by air, sea and road, a total of 6000 miles. The whales have had to undergo training to prepare for the journey and to be able to return to colder water in the seas.

Campaigns Director, Nicola O’Brien stated,

“We hope the journey goes smoothly and Little White and Little Grey arrive safe and sound. It will no doubt be a very confusing time for them, but hopefully will all be worth it in the end when they reach their new home."

Freedom for Animals have been calling for Merlin to retire these whales since 2014 after we revealed that they were making the whales perform circus-style shows for crowds at their centre. We launched our SEA LIES campaign, highlighting how the company had tried to distance themselves from these cruel shows and hide behind claims of being against cetacean captivity.

After intense public pressure on the company to retire the whales, including from veterinary, animal behaviour and marine mammal experts, in July 2018 SEA LIFE announced they were building the world’s first beluga whale sanctuary in Iceland for the whales. Sadly, this was too late for one of the whales, Jun Jun, who died in 2017 after more than 10 years at the centre.

Nicola continued,

“This truly is a historic day for captive whales and animal rights globally. Thanks to animal advocates, the keeping of whales and dolphins in captivity is no longer seen as acceptable and companies such as Merlin are being forced to end public shows. I cannot stress enough how important it is that we keep speaking up for animals exploited in captivity, to give other animals a chance at freedom.”

Keep updated on this momentous journey!

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Photo of bay: SEA LIFE TRUST Beluga Whale Sanctuary