The future plans of the Vancouver Aquarium in Stanley Park don’t include whales or dolphins, it was announced this morning.
Instead, the facility will now focus on “raising awareness of ocean issues impacting other marine animals and will no longer display cetaceans at its facility,” said Vancouver Aquarium and Ocean Wise CEO and president, Dr. John Nightingale.
The only exception to this is “doing what is best for Pacific white-sided dolphin Helen – and any need to use the aquarium for the temporary accommodation of a rescued cetacean,” Nightingale added.
The launch of Ocean Wise in 2017 as the parent global ocean conservation organization focused on protecting and restoring the world’s oceans marked the start of a new era, said the Aquarium in a release.
“There is much work to be done to protect our oceans, and we are focused on the immense leadership needed to help safeguard our aquatic ecosystems,” said Nightingale.
In September, the aquarium will begin construction on the Canada’s Arctic exhibit that has been planned for more than a decade: a transformed habitat and display that will engage visitors regarding the challenges facing Canada’s fragile North.
An array of species will be featured, from cold-water corals to Arctic pinnipeds, such as seals and walruses. An important ecosystem that sustains rich biodiversity, the Arctic is under tremendous pressure from a changing climate.
The transformed Canada’s Arctic exhibit is scheduled to open in 2019.
As always, “the welfare and well-being of animals in its care, and in the wild, remain a top priority for the aquarium,” the release added. “As part of the transition, the animal care team is working… on the best possible arrangements for Helen, the Pacific white-sided dolphin who is the only cetacean currently living at the Aquarium.”
Believed to be in her early 30s, Helen is considered a senior-aged dolphin. She arrived at the Aquarium in 2005 after her rescue and rehabilitation from entanglement in a fishing net in Japan.
“After many years in professional care and with only partial flippers, Helen is not a candidate for release,” said Dr. Nightingale.
In addition, the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Centre — the only marine mammal hospital of its kind in Canada — will continue to rescue and rehabilitate animals in need, including whales or dolphins.
The authorization to save a stranded, sick or injured marine animal is provided by Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) in advance of any rescue effort.
Rescued animals are transferred to the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre – located outside Stanley Park – for critical, short-term care, with the aim to rehabilitate and release back into the wild. Should a rescued cetacean need ongoing care, the animal care team will identify an appropriate long-term facility and work to arrange for a transfer of the patient.
When necessary, Vancouver Aquarium may need to temporarily house a rescued cetacean at its unique facility until an appropriate receiving facility has been identified.
“The Vancouver Aquarium was the original environmental organization in Vancouver,” said Nightingale. “We put conservation into action every day. It’s what we do, it’s who we are, and we will keep doing it long into the future.”