Norway town votes to support marine reserve

City leaders in Hammerfest, Norway recently voted in support of creating an urgently needed planned marine reserve in one of their local fjords. The decision is celebrated by OneWhale, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting the world-famous "Russian spy whale" Hvaldimir, which initiated the project just two years ago.

The plan is to designate a pristine fjord for the Norwegian Whale Reserve, a pioneering international initiative to provide an ocean home to cold water whales who, like Hvaldimir, have been released from captivity but require rehabilitation and new skills in order to survive in the wild.

More than 3,000 whales and dolphins are estimated to live in captivity around the world, primarily in marine theme parks. Most are confined to cramped concrete-and-glass tanks for most of their lives and isolated from other members of their species.

"This landmark vote is a giant step for whales in captivity. It also moves us closer toward our goal of protecting Hvaldimir, the whale who inspired the project," said OneWhale founder Regina Crosby Haug. "This decision will hopefully bring the world its first large-scale nature reserve for whales, which will provide a sanctuary for Hvaldimir and other whales like him. There are many whales ready to be released from their tanks, and there are millions of people around the world ready to celebrate when it happens."

Hvaldimir, a young male beluga whale, appeared off the Norwegian coast near Hammerfest in 2019. He wore a harness that suggested he may have been trained to gather information by Russian intelligence. Because of his training and experience with humans, Hvaldimir is vulnerable to harmful interactions with humans, boats and marine industries.

In cooperation with NOAH, Norway's largest NGO for animal rights, OneWhale's advisory board includes world-class marine scientists, researchers, wildlife conservationists, and veterinarians. OneWhale has also established a year-round public safety team for Hvaldimir, known as Team Hvaldimir, which provides education and safety practices for the public.

The Norwegian Whale Reserve will offer formerly captive whales like Hvaldimir a safe and protected natural environment to unlearn their habits toward humans. The ultimate goal is that with successful rehabilitation, the whales can be released back to a wild population. While each whale is an individual and case-by-case situation, the founding principles of the Norwegian Whale Reserve are Rescue, Research, Rehabilitation and Release.

For more information about Hvaldimir or the Norwegian Whale Reserve and how you can financially support the efforts, visit

OneWhale is a nonprofit created expressly for protecting the health and welfare of Hvaldimir, Norway's famous resident beluga whale. OneWhale has enlisted a world-renowned team of experts, including whale researchers, scientists, and marine mammal veterinarians, all dedicated to helping Hvaldimir lead a long, healthy, and safe life in Norway. OneWhale works every day to ensure Hvaldimir's safety and survival. Our mission is to offer Hvaldimir refuge, rehabilitation and release to a wild beluga population. We believe he deserves to be truly free with his own kind. To find out more and support our mission, visit