An ambitious plan in Nova Scotia to build North America's first coastal refuge for captive whales has reached a critical phase.
The group behind the Whale Sanctuary Project, near Port Hilford, N.S., confirmed today it has received results from key environmental studies.
The non-profit says the last of these studies, an environmental site assessment, is important because it focused on the impact of potentially toxic heavy metals left behind by gold mining in the area that ended long ago.
Soil samples were taken from the bottom of a cove south of Port Hilford, where the plan is to build a 40-hectare enclosure for orcas and belugas retired from marine parks.
The concern is that the whales could be harmed by eating clams, mussels and rock crabs contaminated by arsenic in the submerged soil.
The group issued a statement saying arsenic levels in rock crabs tested above Nova Scotia's guidelines for human consumption, which means further testing is needed.
Meanwhile, no clams were discovered where whales could find them in Port Hilford Bay, and the mussels in the area were deemed acceptable for human consumption.