NPA majority in Park Board will reverse whale and dolphin breeding ban at Vancouver Aquarium

Dec 19 2017, 8:48 pm

The Non-Partisan Association (NPA) plans to use its newly-won majority within the Vancouver Park Board to reverse a highly controversial decision implemented by its predecessors.

Following Saturday’s victory, newly elected Park Park commissioners John Coupar and Sarah Kirby-Yung have indicated that they will use their four out of seven majority to abolish the previous Vision Vancouver dominated board’s bylaw to stop cetacean breeding at the Vancouver Aquarium.

Commissioner Kirby-Yung was contacted, but a response was not received in time for publication. A spokesperson with the Aquarium was also unavailable to comment on the election result, but the following statement was released to Vancity Buzz:

The Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre has worked with the City of Vancouver and the Vancouver Park Board for over 50 years. The Aquarium looks forward to welcoming and briefing the City’s newly elected representatives on all our conservation, research and education efforts as soon as their schedule permits.

In July, following a heated debate over cetacean captivity, the Vision Vancouver dominated Park Board unanimously voted to approve a bylaw that would end both natural and artificial breeding of the Aquarium’s whales and dolphins.

The Park Board did not offer any solutions for how a ban on breeding would be achieved and left it to the Aquarium to propose solutions. In addition, the Park Board mandated the creation of an oversight committee of animal welfare activists would also be created to monitor the “safety” of the institutions’ whales and dolphins.

The Aquarium followed up on the Park Board’s decisions in August by announcing that it had filed a lawsuit in B.C. Supreme Court to challenge the Park Board’s new conditions under which whales and dolphins can be kept at a Vancouver park. The non-profit organization is fighting the bylaw on the grounds that it serves “no legitimate municipal purpose and are beyond the jurisdiction of the Park Board.”

Aquarium CEO and president John Nightingale has previously called the breeding ban “misinformed, misguided” and “against the facts, the science and Mother Nature herself.”

“The Park Board’s use of the word breeding implies that we carry out some sort of planned, regulated or artificial reproduction program,” Nightingale wrote in an open letter. “We don’t do that at the Vancouver Aquarium. Our animals do mate, just as they do in the wild, because we keep them in natural groupings – just as they live in nature. Mating is the most natural thing in the world.”

“In fact, sex and reproduction play an important role in our research and in our education programs. For the Park Board to stop whales and dolphins from doing what comes naturally is like telling Park Board commissioners not to have sex, ever. It’s unnatural.”

The Park Board’s July decision was made despite the findings of a report it commissioned from scientists and veterinarians at the University of California. The report concluded research, rescue and conservation efforts are dependent on the Aquarium’s dolphins and whales.

Other than reversing the decision over the Aquarium, the NPA promised in its election platform to amend Park Board relations with six volunteer-based community centre associations. The Park Board is currently engaged in a lawsuit with the associations over jurisdictional and financial matters.

During the election campaign, the party also announced that it was committed to ensuring parks, gardens, green spaces and recreational facilities would be better kept through the establishment of defined service levels for maintenance.

“Vancouver is a great city, with a wonderful outdoors” says LaPointe during the campaign. “But under Vision the grass isn’t getting cut, our playing fields are falling apart and our trees are neglected. That’s bad management and we will change that.”



Feature Image: Beluga whale via Shutterstock

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