The only Beluga whale at Tacoma's Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium is on the move.

"Beethoven" is headed to San Antonio, Texas to participate in a breeding program.

Beethoven's companion, Qannik died in late March.

During the summer months: California sea lions will take over the empty whale pool.

A date for Beethoven's relocation has not been determined but could be as early as April 29, according to zoo officials.

"Beethoven has touched millions of lives and been an extraordinary ambassador for whales everywhere during his 11 years here," said Gary Geddes, director of zoological and environmental education for Metro Parks Tacoma.

"While we're sad about his return to Sea World, we believe that it's best for Beethoven and the future of the Beluga population in zoos and aquariums across the country."

As a healthy male beluga, Beethoven has an opportunity to make a significant contribution to the genetic diversity of the species.

Last year, three beluga whales were born in zoos and aquariums accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, bringing the total number of beluga whales in accredited North American zoos and aquariums to 35.

The Tacoma zoo and aquarium has been home to beluga whales since the mid-1980s.

Beethoven, 16, has lived at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium since 1998.

Geddes said zoo officials are working to acquire California sea lions as part of a government effort to relocate or remove dozens of California sea lions that are feeding on endangered salmon on the Columbia River.