top of page

Norwegian Whale Reserve

Conservation through compassion.

Video Credit: Inge Wegge


Creating a world that values conservation above exploitation through the rescue, rehabilitation, and release of once-captive whales. 


When combined with a community-led approach, research and education, we can improve ocean outcomes in the Arctic and around the world.

The Norwegian Whale Reserve (NWR) is a visionary conservation initiative nestled in the pristine fjords of Norway, dedicated to rescuing, rehabilitating, and releasing captive whales, specifically orcas and belugas, whilst researching best practices in animal welfare and the ecological importance of whales to ocean health. We also plan to work with the local Government and organisations on ecosystem restoration projects in the region, to expand our positive impact beyond just our fjord.


Committed to the principles of conservation, education, research, and community engagement, our mission is to foster a deep-rooted respect for the oceans and their magnificent inhabitants and grant whales a life free from captivity. By doing this we will be inspiring present and future generations to champion the protection of nature and wildlife as an inherently valuable and interconnected web of life, rather than a source of extractive profit.


NWR was born out of an unwavering commitment to the welfare of marine mammals, plus the preservation and restoration of their natural habitats.

We aim to rescue and rehabilitate captive orcas and belugas, currently held in captivity around the world, providing them with the opportunity to regain their physical and psychological well-being. Our state-of-the-art facilities and expert team of marine biologists and veterinarians will ensure the highest standards of care, enabling these remarkable beings to recover and thrive.  Our ultimate goal is to facilitate the successful reintegration of rehabilitated whales into their natural habitats. We will strive to create optimal conditions for their return to the wild, promoting genetic diversity and the long-term survival of these species.

Rescue, Rehabilitation & Release

Education is another cornerstone of our mission. We will engage with local communities, schools, and visitors to raise awareness about the importance of marine conservation. Through immersive experiences, educational programs, and interactive exhibits, we will foster a sense of wonder and appreciation for the oceans, inspiring people to become stewards of these vital ecosystems. We will create the next generation of conservationists, through compassion for whales and our fjord. All of this will take place at our Discovery Centre in the town of Hammerfest, not at the fjord itself, to protect the whales from further exploitation. 


Our sanctuary will serve as a hub for cutting-edge research in animal welfare and conservation, marine biology, ecology, and behavior. We will work tirelessly to expand our understanding of these species, their roles in marine ecosystems, and the impact of human activities on their populations. This knowledge will be instrumental in driving conservation efforts both within and beyond our sanctuary's borders.

Research & Conservation

We recognize that sustainable conservation efforts must be rooted in community involvement and support to achieve systemic change. We will collaborate with local communities, empowering them to actively participate in our mission and benefit from the sanctuary's presence through eco-tourism based on Hammerfest's nature and educational opportunities.

Community Engagement

Core Objectives

Concept Renders

We envision a project that includes both a Discovery Centre, focused on education, and a Science and Research Centre, dedicated to exploring the entire ecosystem. These initiatives aim to create an immersive environment where learning and discovery go hand in hand with scientific exploration. By delving into the intricate details of marine life, we seek to foster a deeper understanding and appreciation of the ocean's vast wonders, ensuring their preservation for future generations.


  • What do you have planned to do at your Discovery Centre?
    When our Discovery Centre opens its doors, you'll be greeted by an array of immersive experiences: Life-Sized Whale Exhibits: You will walk alongside life-sized whale replicas, offering interactive learning about these majestic creatures. VR Journeys: You will don the latest VR technology to plunge into the ocean's depths, witnessing the whale's world like never before. Educational Talks: You will be able to attend talks from marine experts, sharing insights into the fascinating lives of whales and the science behind their conservation. Documentary Screenings: You will watch gripping documentaries that shed light on the whales’ underwater realms and the critical efforts to safeguard them. Conservation-Focused Merchandise: You will have the opportunity to purchase unique merchandise, with proceeds supporting our vital conservation work. Each visit will offer a glimpse into the future of ocean conservation and the role we can all play in it.
  • Will you offer the ability to go and see the whales?
    We will offer boat tours to go and visit our Fjord and floating research and care facility, however there is no guarantee to see our whales. Our fjord is designed to provide a life for the whales that is as close as practical to a normal, wild existence. This means what they do, and whether you see them or not, is entirely on their terms. We cannot call the whales over for you to see them, and we will not ask them to perform in any way whatsoever. Zoos and other facilities that keep whales in captivity for profit are illegal in Norway. It is important to understand that we exist to rescue, rehabilitate, research and release. Our whales and our facility are not here for you to see whales, although if you take a trip to the site you may be lucky enough to witness them in their environment. We do recommend visiting The Whale in Andennes during your time in Norway. They have a fantastic whale museum, and also offer whale watching tours to see wild whales.
  • Will all whales be released?
    This decision will be made entirely on a case by case basis under expert advice from marine biologists and veterinarians. Whales are complex animals, and we need to be certain that they not only know how to hunt for themselves to a level where they can sustain themselves, but there are also complex social aspects to consider. Whales have an extra cortex, and a greater amount of folds than humans, that are dedicated to emotions and socialisation. They are social creatures and to live a full and safe life in the wild, we believe they likely need to integrate with a pod. All of these considerations will be made when deciding which whales are candidates for a full release. Unlike marine parks, we are not financially incentivized to keep the whales, and do not profit from the whales, so financial motivations will play no role in the decision making process on each whale.
  • Will you offer the ability for production companies to film the whales?
    We will treat such requests on a case by case basis, however most are not accepted. Our priority is to rescue, rehabilitate, research and release whales. This means human interactions must be at a bare minimum, and the ability to film will only be granted where it can be shown that filming will not negatively impact our main mission, but will give value to the whales themselves and their conservation. Please note that we never grant filming permits to productions companies who exploit animals, or who have any owners or funders that exploit animals.
  • Why is Norway the right location for this type of project?
    Nestled among the majestic northern waters, Norway is the perfect location for the reserve’s for many reasons, including: 30x30 Commitment: Norway’s dedication to protecting 30% of its marine areas by 2030 aligns perfectly with our conservation efforts. UN SDGs: The sanctuary's activities support the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, particularly SDG 14: Life Below Water, in promoting marine conservation. Stability: The country’s political stability ensures consistent support for our conservation initiatives. Geography & Climate: With its natural fjords and suitable climate, Norway offers a habitat that allows whales to thrive and prepare for the wild. Together, these aspects make Norway the right place to foster a safe and sustainable haven for whales.
  • How many whales can be at the reserve?
    Our spacious 500-acre fjord is designed to provide a safe and nurturing environment for multiple whales simultaneously. The exact number of whales we can support at any given time depends on a balance of factors, including the mix of species we're caring for, such as orcas and belugas, and the specific care plans each individual whale requires. We take into account the social dynamics and space requirements of both species to ensure a harmonious and healthy living environment. Our priority is to maintain the highest standard of care and well-being for our whales, which means we carefully manage the population of our reserve to prevent overcrowding and ensure each whale receives the attention and space it deserves.
  • What was the catalyst of the project?
    In 2019, Hvaldimir, a beluga whale with a harness reading "Property of St. Petersburg," surfaced near Hammerfest, Norway, and became a viral sensation. His remarkable interaction with humans led to a groundswell of support from the local community and whale researchers. Recently, a shift in Hvaldimir’s behavior suggests he may be ready to join a wild pod of belugas, an encouraging sign for his independence. Despite this positive development, the need for our sanctuary remains, as countless whales still depend on us to bridge the gap from captivity back to their natural habitat. Hvaldimir's story serves as a beacon of hope and underscores the ongoing importance of our mission.
  • How will you ensure the whales here are cared for and live a full, enjoyable life?
    Each whale in our care is recognized as an individual, with distinct histories, personalities, and needs. We meticulously develop personalized care plans to meet the unique requirements of each one, from specialized diets to individualized enrichment activities that promote their natural behaviors. Our goal is to minimize human-whale interactions to foster independence and prepare them for potential release. We're committed to maintaining their wild nature by limiting their dependency on humans and encouraging self-sufficient behaviors critical for survival in the wild. For those who cannot be released, we provide a sanctuary that mimics their natural habitat as closely as possible. Our dedicated team ensures these whales live with dignity and joy, with the utmost respect for their individuality and a life that is as rich and natural as we can provide.
  • How is the reserve different from marine parks or aquariums?
    Marine Parks are very good at whitewashing their imaging and pretending they exist for the benefit of animals kept there. While there may be exceptions, this is not correct. Their primary aim is profit, and they take wild whales, or breed whales in captivity, to support that business model. To drive profits, whales are kept in small enclosures that are cheaper to cool and filter, and that maximise guests' ability to see the whales. Our reserve does none of this. We exist purely to rescue, rehabilitate, and release whales whilst researching best practice for animal welfare and conservation. Some, however, who have spent their entire lives in captivity may never be ready for release. In those cases, we aim to offer as close as possible a proxy to a fully wild, totally free existence, whilst still caring for a whale that has been trained to be dependent on humans. We do not offer experiences to swim, dive, kayak or even see our whales. It is possible to see our fjord and our facility, but there is no guarantee of seeing a whale. The animal welfare problems that follows is the reason why marine parks with whales or dolphins are not allowed in Norway.
  • Why do whales not simply get released, why is the reserve needed?
    Releasing captive whales directly into the wild requires more than just opening a gate. Captive whales often lack essential survival skills, such as hunting and social interaction. Our reserve acts as a transitional haven to reacquaint them with these natural behaviors. Here, we can carefully monitor their health and behavior, providing a safe space for them to adapt. It's also crucial to recognize that not all whales may be suitable for release. After careful monitoring, we might determine that some whales can't be released due to health, dependency on humans, or other concerns. In these cases, our reserve commits to providing them with lifelong care, ensuring they live out their days in a habitat that's as close to the wild as possible.
  • Will you offer the opportunity to swim, dive or kayak with the whales?
    This is not something we can offer. Our fjord is designed to provide a life for the whales that is as close as practical to a normal, wild existence. Allowing guests to swim, dive or kayak with the whales on a regular basis is not aligned with our mission, or our ability to rescue, rehabilitate, research and release whales.

Your financial support enables us to continue our vital work, from rescuing and rehabilitating whales to conducting groundbreaking research and educational outreach programs.


If you're passionate about marine conservation and education, consider joining our team as a volunteer. Your time and expertise can make a meaningful impact.


Support policies and practices that promote the welfare of marine mammals and ocean protection. Advocate to end captivity, and for the responsible management of marine environments.


We welcome partnerships and collaborations with organizations that share our commitment to marine conservation and education. Together, we can achieve more.



We have completed all key pre-project steps including site assessments, environmental testing and in-principle local Government approvals.


We are currently creating the final reporting required for formal and binding approvals to be issued by Hammerfest and Norwegian Governments. 


On receipt of all final approvals, we hope to begin construction on the reserve as a matter of urgency, and the Discovery Centre soon after. 


On completion, we look forward to welcoming our first whales, for which we are already in the process of securing Letters of Intent. 

Opening and Operation


Bella is one of five captive beluga whales in South Korea. She was believed to be around two years old when she was captured by boats in Russian waters in 2013.

Image Credit:

Bella - South Korea

Morgan was captured from the Wadden Sea in 2010 when she was found in an unhealthy condition. Soon after she was moved to Spain where she has remained ever since.

Image Credit:

Morgan - Spain

Kshamenk was part of a transient pod of orca swimming off the coast of Argentina before he was captured in 1992. He has been held in captivity for over 30 years.

Image Credit: UrgentSeas

Kshamenk - Argentina


This concept rendering of the Fjord shows the size and scale of our ambitions in the Hammerfest region. Please click below to view the results of our environmental studies conducted in 2023.



Our founding partners have been crucial in shaping NWR's direction, combining their unique strengths and commitments to marine and animal conservation. From grassroots activism to local governance and philanthropic support, their collaboration forms the backbone of our efforts to study and protect marine life. Together, we're dedicated to fostering a deeper understanding of the ocean's ecosystems and ensuring their health for generations to come.


Dear Friends,


I’d like to introduce you to Hammerfest, my hometown and the future home of the Norwegian Whale Reserve. Nestled within the Arctic Circle, Hammerfest is known as the northernmost city in the world. The arctic climate makes Hammerfest the perfect haven for cold water whales, such as belugas and orcas. Our beautiful islands and mountains create areas of peaceful refuge in the Barents sea, perfect for the world first whale reserve. 


Our goal is to build a growing relationship with international scientific, research, educational, and artistic communities, which go hand-in-hand with this international project. We recognize that the efforts to rescue and rehabilitate these endangered whales will be groundbreaking, and we intend to support the Norwegian Whale Reserve as an integral part of our community. These animals will be welcomed as treasured residents and marine mammal VIPs. 


But there is also a lot to offer our human VIPs! In Hammerfest you can experience reindeer roaming wild, northern lights or the midnight sun, skiing and snowboarding, world class restaurants, inviting hotels, and more nature than you can fit into one visit. We look forward to welcoming the world to Hammerfest!


Warm regards,

Mayor Terje Rogde


Sitting on the edge of the Barents Sea in northern Norway, Hammerfest is more than a location; it's a community deeply intertwined with the Arctic's natural splendor. This town epitomizes resilience and a strong connection to the ocean, making it an ideal setting for our whale sanctuary. 


In this close-knit community, the enthusiasm for marine life and conservation is tangible. In developing the NWR, the local support for this project has been clear and embodies a culture of stewardship for the ocean. Hammerfest is not just a backdrop for our sanctuary; it's a living, breathing partner in our quest to protect and understand marine life, forging a future where humans and whales coexist in harmony.

Image Credit: Ziggi Wantuch/Hammerfest Turist

Image Credit: Ziggi Wantuch/Hammerfest Turist

bottom of page