Hundreds of Vancouver Aquarium supporters rally outside Park Board meeting (PHOTOS)

May 15 2017, 7:52 pm

A large crowd of protesters are rallying outside the offices of the Vancouver Park Board in Stanley Park this evening where commissioners are expected to make a final decision on whether the Vancouver Aquarium can keep cetaceans in captivity.

Park Board meetings rarely fill up the meeting room where commissioners deliberate, but during tonight’s deliberations the meeting room and hallway are packed with aquarium supporters.

And that’s not all – there are 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.”

A decision is expected to be reached later this evening.

What’s at stake

The Vancouver Park Board is set to vote tonight on amendments to the bylaw that deals with keeping cetaceans in captivity at the Vancouver Aquarium.

At a special public meeting on March 9, 2017, elected Commissioners directed staff to amend the bylaw to ban the importation and display of live cetaceans in Vancouver parks.

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“The Park Board voted unanimously to amend the Park Control bylaw after discussions with aquarium staff, extensive public consultation and a thorough review of marine science and best practices in aquariums around the world,” said Park Board Chair Michael Wiebe in a statement.

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

While banning future importation of cetaceans, the proposed draft bylaw amendments acknowledges the need to address the cetaceans already living at the Vancouver Aquarium.

If the new bylaw passes, the three existing cetaceans will be grandfathered in and do not need to be removed from the Vancouver Aquarium.

Effective immediately, they can remain on display for the public, however their presence cannot include performances of any kind.

What’s in a bylaw amendment?

Señor Cinco the sea lion was found stranded on Spanish Banks on May 5 (Vancouver Aquarium)

Señor Cinco the sea lion was found stranded on Spanish Banks on May 5. (Vancouver Aquarium)

The existing Parks Control bylaw sets the conditions under which cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) can be acquired and kept in parks.

Under section 9 (e) it’s 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

The recommended amendments to the existing bylaw are:

  • That an expanded definition for “cetacean” be added to the definitions in section 1.
  • 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 proposed amendment will not allow 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. The proposed change considers the three existing cetaceans at the Vancouver Aquarium and will not require their removal.
  • 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 is proposed in consideration of the three cetaceans at the Vancouver Aquarium and the limited options currently available for housing them, while supporting the Board’s intent regarding display. The three cetaceans can remain on display. They cannot be included in shows or performances of any kind.
DH Vancouver StaffDH Vancouver Staff

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