The Vancouver Aquarium’s future could be decided at a special Vancouver Park Board meeting today when Park Board commissioners review the independent report it commissioned to examine the institution’s operations around whales and dolphins and compare it with other worldwide facilities.
The Aquarium is also scheduled to make a special presentation to defend its case, which will be followed by a public speaker’s list. Two of the seven Park Board commissioners have voiced their opposition to the whales and dolphins kept at the Aquarium, and could make the controversy an added referendum question during the November 2014 municipal election.
I usually don’t chime in on this kind of thing, but recent events have made it abundantly clear that, when a topic as heated as Cetaceans in “Captivity” is what’s hot in the press, both sides need to speak up.
Of my living and work life, I pride myself on two things; that I live in a city like Vancouver where the general population makes it their job to be aware and up to date on incredibly relevant social issues that others may find it troublesome to tackle, and work towards new ways of thinking that we may better ourselves.
And most importantly, two, that I work in a place called the Vancouver Aquarium with like minded individuals who want to keep us moving forward.
I find it astounding that people could be so convinced that the Vancouver Aquarium encourages incredibly backward ideas like the Taiji dolphin hunt, where as in fact the Pacific White Sided Dolphins in the Vancouver Aquarium’s care are rescues from a fishing net incident in Japan, deemed non-reasonable by AZA (http://www.aza.org/) because of their extensive injuries that would hinder their ability to survive in the wild.
I find it astounding that people do not believe that the Vancouver Aquarium staff, who are so invested and so conscious of global issues such as climate change, wild-life conservation, and the changes ongoing in the Ocean as we speak, would not hold the institution they work at to the highest standards of environmental policies.
That the internationally renowned and respected staff would not constantly ensure that the non-profit, conservation and education based organization they work for, was not meeting the high level of expectations they have advertised to the public.
That they would allow the Aquarium to violate the agreement established in 1996, promising to never again collect wild cetaceans or marine mammals except in the event of providing a home for those in need of rescue, rehabilitation, and/or deemed unreleasable.
I find it astounding that, despite the Vancouver Aquarium’s extreme efforts to ensure that any animals in their care are only kept at the utmost need, since the most scientifically validated care provided for these animals can be very expensive and as a non-profit based science centre and research-based organization the Aquarium isn’t really in it for the money.
Take one of the most recent rescues by the Vancouver Aquarium’s Marine Mammal Rescue staff that now takes residence at the Aquarium itself, Walter the Male Sea Otter, who, after being rescued and rehabilitated from gunshot wounds cost $90 per day to ensure he received the highest quality of care to come back to health. All that care was sustained by generous donations from the public.
I am astounded that the public would demand that the Pacific White Sided Dolphins and Artic Belguas be released back to the ocean, ignoring the great amount we have and could still learn about their species from caring for them, ignoring the importance of facilitating human contact with these animals so we can develop a knowledge and care for these animals so conservation efforts will only grow with the next generation, and ignoring the fact that we may very well be sentencing them to a wild life without the tools they require to survive out there (hence their rescuing) or even worse to an environment that is completely foreign to them (as with Qila, the Beluga in our care who was born at the Vancouver Aquarium, and never subjected to the ocean).
The fact is, we both want a world in which animal care if based in rescue, rehabilitation, and conservation. Perhaps if someone deemed to ask one of the Vancouver Aquarium staff, they would learn that we don’t object to those listed standards of animal care the public is demanding.
We already live by them.
Written by Eric Biskupski, a former Guest Services Lead at the Vancouver Aquarium. He was an employee of the Aquarium for five years. Eric also House Manages for the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra’s School of Music and performs as an actor in local productions.