Whale Sanctuary Project unveils plans for spring

PORT HILFORD — The Whale Sanctuary Project (WSP) will be busy this spring with the next phase of its ambitious program to create the world’s first wild refuge for once-captive whales in this small coastal Nova Scotia community.

According to WSP spokesperson Michael Mountain, “The next steps are basically about two things: the first is where to best place the sanctuary buildings, infrastructure (electricity, water, etc.) and the net structure upon which the perimeter netting surrounding the 100 acres of sanctuary water will abut. And second, it’s about understanding the water in the sanctuary area of ​​the bay as much as possible.

All of this will involve study, lots of study.

“In terms of buildings, infrastructure and network structure, this requires more extensive site development work that includes collecting sediment and core samples from areas where buildings may be located to understand the terrain stability,” Mountain said.

“For the perimeter net in the bay itself, this includes taking soil samples from subsurface sediments along the perimeter of the net enclosure location to understand the structural composition of the sediments so that we we can plan the optimal anchoring system for the nets. »

Over the past two years, since the project was announced to much fanfare and support along the east coast, understanding the site’s water conditions has been a priority. “We have collected water temperature and pressure data in the bay, and we continue to have comprehensive data for all seasons over an extended period that we can compare to historical environmental records,” Mountain said.

Now, he added, geotechnical studies will be followed by civil, mechanical and structural engineering analyzes to inform infrastructure and construction planning. These include assessing benthic impacts to help determine how the sanctuary’s perimeter net anchoring system will impact the seabed, as well as where to deploy the net anchors to have the best configuration for maximum whale welfare and least environmental impact. Ultimately, the 40-hectare coastal sanctuary for whales that have lived most of their lives in marine parks will be large enough to house up to eight beluga whales that would likely perish if released back into the wild. The establishment could be ready to receive its first permanent residents as early as 2023.

“We are also sharing our findings with government regulators as part of the overall permitting process and as part of our due diligence to ensure there will be no risk to any whales that may come to the sanctuary. said Mountain.

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