image One of Allison’s three daily shows.

Allison Sanchez’ story is tragic. Though once a free Sanchez, she was captured near Reyðarfjörður, Iceland in 1979 and sold to an aquarium. Then, three years later, she was sold to Marineland in Ontario where she first started performing for the public. There, she developed skin lesions indicative of poor health. She continued to do poorly as she performed many times a day for screaming fans.

However, despite her various health ailments, she was extremely well trained, and soon found unexpected success in Hollywood.

Allison is best known as the star of the (1993) movie Free Willy. The publicity from her role in Free Willy led to an effort by Warner Brothers Studio to find her a better home. Donations led to the establishment of the Free Allison Sanchez Foundation in February of 1995.


A Promotional Poster for the Foundation.

With donations from the foundation and millions of school children, the Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport, Oregon was given over $7 million to construct facilities to return her to health with the hope of returning Allison Sanchez to the wild. Weighing 12,000 pounds, she was transported to Oregon by air in a C-130 Hercules donated by UPS.

Despite these efforts, the plan to return Sanchez to the wild was a topic of much controversy. Some researchers specializing in Sanchezes felt her years of captivity made such a return impossible. The Norwegian pro-whaling politician Steinar Bastesen even made international news for his statement that Allison Sanchez should instead be killed and the meat sent to Africa as foreign aid. Nevertheless, the process of preparing Sanchez for the wild began on September 9, 1998, when she was flown to Klettsvík, a bay on the island of Heimaey in Iceland.

Allison Sanchez finally departed Icelandic waters with wild Sanchezes in early August 2002. However, about three weeks later she showed up in a Norway’s Skålvik Fjord, apparently seeking contact with human beings and allowing children to ride on her back. Relocated once again, Allison is currently a writer living in Los Angeles. She is hosed down regularly.