Vancouver Aquarium reaches agreement to remain in Stanley Park for 35 years

Jun 26 2019, 2:36 am

Tumultuous tensions and rifts between the Vancouver Aquarium and the Vancouver Park Board have apparently eased, as both parties have reached an agreement that will allow the aquarium to remain as a key attraction in Stanley Park for the next 35 years.

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The agreement, announced today, also means Ocean Wise, the non-profit entity that the marine centre was recently reorganized under, will drop its lawsuit against the park board after it passed a bylaw amendment in 2017 to restrict cetaceans from being displayed in Vancouver parks.

In May, the marine centre filed a lawsuit against the park board for a $4 million drop in revenue in 2017 and 2018 after its revenue from admissions dropped from the cetacean ban.

The allegations were not proven in court, but the marine centre argued the park board was acting beyond its jurisdictional authority and claimed that it lost a major donation of $7.5 million in value for the construction of its new arctic exhibit for beluga whales, which was a project approved by a previous group of park board commissioners. It wrote off $2.2 million in costs from the planning of the new habitat.

Model depicting the cancelled new and expanded tank for the beluga whales at the Vancouver Aquarium. (Kenneth Chan / Daily Hive)

Model depicting the cancelled new and expanded tank for the beluga whales at the Vancouver Aquarium. (Kenneth Chan / Daily Hive)

Over the same period, the marine centre also lost five cetaceans to sudden deaths, including two belugas, two harbour porpoises, and one false killer whale.

The marine centre owns five beluga whales that are currently on loan to other facilities, and it had planned on returning several of the whales to the expanded and improved exhibit following its completion.

Since then, and as part of the new agreement with the park board, the marine centre has committed to no longer display cetaceans at its facility in Stanley Park.

With the feud seemingly now over, the marine centre’s parent company is working towards creating a new five-year strategy, which is expected to outline the use of its empty tanks and revitalize revenue-generating attendance that helps supports the aquarium’s rescue and advocacy work.

This strategy will be unveiled in January 2020, renewing the aquarium’s focus on conservation, research, public education, governance, and visitor experience.

“Ocean Wise aspires to become a global ocean conservation organization and wants to inspire people in every corner of the planet to participate in creating healthy oceans, but for most people the ocean is ‘out of sight, out of mind,'” said Gustavsson.

“There are many threats to the ocean, but the greatest threat is that many believe someone else is going to save it. Ocean Wise has an important role to bring the ocean to the people and the people to the ocean, and the Vancouver Aquarium is one of the best tools we have to do that.”

The marine centre’s new agreement replaces the current lease that was set to expire in 2029. The aquarium first opened in 1956; it is one of Vancouver’s oldest institutions and tourist attractions, and sees an annual attendance of approximately one million.

Earlier this month, the federal government passed a cetacean law that banned the captivity, breeding, importing, and exporting of any whale, dolphin, or porpoise.

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