Whale Sanctuary Project puts Port Hilford on the map

·2 min read

PORT HILFORD – From this tiny coastal community at the edge of rural Nova Scotia, the Whale Sanctuary Project (WSP) is making waves – even, perhaps, on another lonely planet orbiting another average-sized star somewhere in the Milky Way.

In a wide-ranging and upbeat video conference from their offices in southern California and Utah last week, the WSP’s Executive Director Charles Vinick and President Lori Marino told local supporters and volunteers that news of the project is rippling far and wide.

“I even attended a Zoom webinar, ‘Animal Intelligence and the Search for Life Beyond Earth’ by the SETI Institute,” Marino told a rapt online gathering. “We are really taking off.”

In fact, Vinick said the project’s “Whales Without Walls” documentary recently nabbed Official Selection designations at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, Wildlife Conservation Film Festival, North Hollywood Cinefest, and Florida Environmental Film Festival.

The brass and galls, he reported, keeps coming: An Award of Merit at the Best Shorts Competition, an Award of Excellence at the indieFEST Film Awards Competition (in the Nature/Environmental/Wildlife and Documentary Short categories), and the top prize at the Toronto Short Film Festival for Best Documentary Short.

What’s more, he said, the project’s social media presence has expanded rapidly over the past few months, with 23,400 followers on Instagram and 35,000 on Facebook. Its overall reach on the former has increased 37 per cent and 5,000 per cent on the latter. “Right now, we have 1.8 million reaches, alone, for our post ‘orca swimming’,” he noted. “This is all really important because it brings attention and potential donors to Port Hilford and the project.”

The St. Mary’s community became the site of the first whale sanctuary in North America when the San Francisco animal welfare, headed by Marino and Vinick, selected it over several others, including Sheet Harbour, after a stiff competition earlier this year.

Since then, complications from the Covid-19 pandemic have pushed preparations for the opening – still scheduled for early 2022 – to phone and video platforms. Still, Vinick told his audience last week, “I want to assure you, we are very pleased. I hope you are not losing faith, because we are not. There’s a lot going on.”

According to the project’s Nova Scotia-based environmental analyst, Amanda Babin, work continues at a steady pace – everything from temperature testing and runoff assessment to acoustical and tidal studies. Even the effects of storms are under the microscope.

“Photos and videos taken as Hurricane Teddy arrived in Port Hilford show us whether debris comes ashore and whether there are particular locations where more or less debris accumulates,” she told the video gathering. “This helps us plan our operations for all types of weather events.”

Alec Bruce, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal