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Vancouver Aquarium banned from bringing in new cetaceans

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DH Vancouver Staff May 16, 2017 1:36 am 3,604

Amendments to a Vancouver Park Board bylaw that bans the Vancouver Aquarium from bringing in new cetacean displays were officially approved at a meeting Monday night.

Until now, the existing Parks Control bylaw (under section 9 e ) stated that no person shall bring into any park, or otherwise keep or maintain in any park, any cetacean which has been captured or taken from the wild except:

  • Captive cetaceans caught from the wild prior to September 16, 1996, and cetaceans born into captivity at any time
  • Cetaceans which are already being kept or maintained in a park as of September 16, 1996
  • A member of an endangered cetacean species, provided that approval for bringing it into a park has first been obtained from the Park Board
  • An animal that has been injured or is otherwise in distress and in need of assistance to survive or rehabilitation, whether or not the intention is to release it back into its natural wild habitat

On Monday night, that bylaw was amended to include things like an expanded definition of “cetacean” in section 1, among other changes. These changes include:

  • That “no person shall bring a cetacean into a park”. The current bylaw included this provision, but it contained exceptions that allowed for importation under certain circumstances. The amendment bans any cetacean importation into Vancouver parks, no exceptions.
  • That “no person shall keep a cetacean in a park” except for “cetaceans already in a park” as of the date of enactment. This means the three existing cetaceans at the Vancouver Aquarium will be able to stay
  • That “no person shall produce or present in a park a show, performance, or other form of entertainment which includes one of more cetaceans”. This new clause takes into account the three cetaceans currently at the Vancouver Aquarium and the limited options currently available for housing them, while supporting the Board’s intent regarding display.

Cetaceans at Vancouver Aquarium can stay

Chester the false killer whale is one of the cetaceans being cared for by the Vancouver Aquarium's Marine Mammal Rescue program (Vancouver Aquarium)

Chester the false killer whale is one of the cetaceans being cared for by the Vancouver Aquarium’s Marine Mammal Rescue program (Vancouver Aquarium)

The Aquarium currently has three cetaceans in captivity, Helen, a Pacific white sided dolphin; Daisy, a harbour porpoise; and Chester, a false killer whale (a type of dolphin). All three animals were rescued.

These three cetaceans can remain on display. However, they cannot be included in shows or performances of any kind.

Meanwhile, the Aquarium has no whales in captivity, since the death of its two belugas, Aurora and Qila in November of last year.

Vancouver Aquarium CEO responds to ban

In a media statement, John Nightingale, the CEO of Vancouver Aquarium responded to the ban:

We find it incomprehensible that the Park Board would impose a proposed ban on rescuing, caring for and sheltering future sick, injured or orphaned whales, dolphins and porpoises that cannot return to their natural habitat because they are unfit to survive in the wild.

We are devastated that the Park Board would turn its back on vulnerable cetaceans at a time when they need our help the most. Whether it’s helping a stranded false killer whale or a baby porpoise that was separated from its mother, the humane thing to do is to rescue and care for these helpless animals.

The Park Board’s actions contradict its words. Commissioners say they support Vancouver Aquarium’s Marine Mammal Rescue Program yet their ill-conceived ban will condemn to certain death the very animals that need rescuing. The proposed ban would result in euthanasia for stranded cetaceans along our coastlines.

The rescue program is governed by Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO). Its scientists ultimately decide if a stranded whale, dolphin or porpoise may be rescued, and if it may be reintroduced to the wild after our rescue team has provided tens of thousands of hours of intensive care rehabilitating the animal.

The Aquarium’s Marine Mammal Rescue Program is the only facility in Canada with the expertise, resources, and personnel to provide the specialized care these whales, dolphins and porpoises require.

Without a long-term home at the Vancouver Aquarium for injured, sick and orphaned cetaceans that cannot be returned to the wild, DFO may decide to euthanize rather than permit the rescue of stranded whales, dolphins and porpoises.

Hundreds protest during decision meeting

Hundreds of supporters gather outside Vancouver Park Board meeting room in support of the Vancouver Aquarium. (Vancouver Aquarium)

On Monday night, protesters rallied outside the offices of the Vancouver Park Board in Stanley Park during the meeting.

Park Board meetings rarely fill up the meeting room, but that changed during the evening’s deliberations as the meeting room and hallway were packed with aquarium supporters.

And that’s not all – there were hundreds of supporters outside the building, standing in the pouring rain, chanting loudly for commissioners to reconsider.

“I don’t understand how something like this can be left up to politicians to decide,” Marcus Minham, a protester at the meeting, told Daily Hive. “It’s absurd it has gotten this far just because some politicians want to make a name for themselves.”

See also

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DH Vancouver Staff
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