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Day 6: Dr. Romano 2019 Retrospective

SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 24

As part of all this travel, I made a trip to Vestmannaeyjar, Iceland with my colleague Dr. Allison Tuttle to visit the Sea Life Trust Beluga Sanctuary in Iceland.

Mystic Aquarium scientists have been involved in the research of beluga whale health and physiology for many years and at the forefront of investigating new ideas and pioneering innovations in the advancement of wild beluga conservation efforts. Sanctuaries have been brought forth as an initiative within the marine mammal conservation community.

Today these sanctuaries are a potential but unproven solution to advance the conservation of whales and other cetaceans. The benefits of continued care in managed ocean pens must be weighed with the risks associated with open water, such as potential for exposure to sound, pathogens, toxins, and other potential stressors.

The belugas seemed healthy and much progress has been made getting them acclimated to their current indoor habitat. But, while progress is being made, there is still much work to do before the whales can be transitioned to the ocean pen adjacent to the Peace Harbor.

It is clear that more research is needed on sanctuaries in order to better understand how belugas will adapt and live in sanctuary environments. We look forward to expanding our partnerships with others dedicated to beluga conservation and apply our research capabilities to study sanctuary initiatives. It is critical that we all work together to deepen our understanding of beluga health, physiology, behavior, and management for the benefit of beluga conservation world-wide.

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