Sealand, Longtime Home To Killer Whales, Closes

VICTORIA, B.C. - After more than two decades as home to killer whales and other captive sea creatures, Oak Bay's Sealand of the Pacific has closed.

In pouring rain, some visitors took their last opportunity Sunday to see glistening orcas Nootka, Haida and her 10-month-old calf as they circled and leapt in their 70- by 100-foot pool.

Once a well-accepted tourist attraction, Sealand increasingly came under criticism by environmentalists and others opposed to the confinement of whales.

Two whale calves were born within five weeks of each other on Dec. 24, 1991, and last Feb. 4, making Sealand the only whale pool in the world to have had two mothers and two calves in the same pool. The second calf, born to Nootka, died 36 days later.

In 1982, Miracle, an orphan whale rehabilitated from near death at Sealand, died in a tangle of net cut by an animal activist attempting to free it.

The captivity debate escalated sharply Feb. 20, 1991, when Sealand trainer Keltie Bryne fell into the whale pool and was forcibly submerged by three adult orcas, the first time killer whales in captivity had killed.

Oak Bay council made removal of the whales by the end of 1993 a condition of renewing the lease of Sealand owner Bob Wright, who will now redevelop the Oak Bay marina area.

Wright has sold Sealand's whales to SeaWorld of Orlando, Fla. The purchase price was not released but is believed to be $3 million to $5 million.

When the original Haida was purchased in 1969, the going rate for whales was $5,000.

SeaWorld applied a year ago for permits for all three adults then living at Sealand.