Sanctuary founder to discuss special project
His name is familiar, but who is Charles Vinick?
Mr. Vinick may be more familiar to the community because of his involvement with the 1993 film “Free Willy” and its star Orca, Keiko, whom he helped to move to Iceland.
His experience with the attempts to return Keiko to the wild and his work with the Cousteau Society and Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ocean Futures Society have inspired him to start the Whale Sanctuary Project, which he will discuss at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum.
“Whales Without Walls: The Whale Sanctuary Project” is the title of his in-person lecture. There will be a pre-lecture reception for members only from 6:15 to 6:45 p.m.
“Although there are sanctuaries for elephants, chimpanzees and big cats around the world, there are none for cetaceans — yet. Thus, the Whale Sanctuary’s vision is of a world in which captive cetaceans (whales and dolphins) are treated with respect and are no longer confined to concrete tanks in entertainment parks and aquariums,” said Mr. Vinick, who will discuss what it takes to identify and acquire a suitable sanctuary location, as well as what an authentic whale sanctuary is and how the whale sanctuary in Port Hilford, Nova Scotia, is being designed to set the gold standard for many more that can then be built all over the world in the coming years.
Why a sanctuary?
“While I would like to see all captive whales and dolphins returned to the open ocean, this is rarely possible. In particular, whales who have been born in captivity and have never experienced life in the ocean with their own family have never learned the skills to survive in the wild,” he said. “They need lifetime care where they can thrive in a natural setting that’s as close as possible to what they would experience in the wild. Injured or stranded wild individuals, however, will be treated and assessed, and every effort will be made to release them back to the open ocean.”
Mr. Vinick and his colleagues were able to bring veterinarians into the Miami Seaquarium to conduct the first independent health and welfare assessment of Lolita, the orca who has been in the world’s smallest whale tank for more than 50 years. This unique collaboration with the Miami Seaquarium owners is progressing to provide Lolita with the highest quality of life possible.
He will contrast the work of creating a sanctuary for captive whales with the effort to designate the Santa Barbara Channel as a Whale Heritage Site.
Co-founder of Friends of Lolita, Mr. Vinick has been leading nonprofits for more than 40 years. He previously served as executive vice president of the Ocean Futures Society and senior vice president of The Cousteau Society, working with the Cousteau family for more than 25 years.
Mr. Vinick currently serves on the boards of directors of Heal the Ocean, the Ocean Futures Society and the Marine Protection Alliance as well as the Whale Sanctuary Project and Friends of Lolita. He has received commendations from the White House for his work with youth education and from the Los Angeles City Council for community environmentalism.