This Icelandic island gives shelter to whales

Two female beluga whales Little White and Little Grey will be the first inhabitants of the new whale sanctuary which is about to open next to the remote Icelandic island of Heimaey.

It is called the first beluga whale sanctuary in the world and locals are excited by the potential tourism boost the new sanctuary may bring, including a visitor centre and boat trips into the bay.

"This is unique, this is the first time in the world they do it like this. So, we're very happy to be a part of it" says Iris Robertsdottir, the mayor of the Westman Islands.

Iceland's whaling industry has long drawn criticism from around the world, many hope the sanctuary will show another side to the sparsely-populated North Atlantic island.

Animal rights campaigners have praised the project, calling on other marine parks to release their whales and dolphins into similar natural environments.

"By developing seaside sanctuaries, we're able to offer these animals some semblance of a natural life that they've been denied for so long," says Theodora Iona, outreach coordinator for PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals).

"Also, seaside sanctuaries offer more enriched space, far more diving depth that they've been used to and they're also able to do what they want to do when they want to do it.

"They won't be forced to perform ridiculous tricks for paying visitors. So, it's definitely a much, much better option for them."

Click on the video player above and take a look at Little White and Little Grey who are set to travel from Shanghai to Heimaey in spring 2019.