Park board approves bylaw banning whales, dolphins at Vancouver Aquarium

Park board approves bylaw banning whales, dolphins at Vancouver Aquarium

In a tilted vote of 6-1, the Vancouver Park Board on Monday night voted to ban the captivity of cetaceans at the Vancouver Aquarium.

The three cetaceans now at the aquarium, a Pacific white-sided dolphin, harbour porpoise and a false killer whale, will be allowed to stay in the Stanley Park tourist attraction but can not perform for public entertainment.

"Without the expertise of staff and facilities at the Vancouver Aquarium, we would not be able to rescue stranded or injured cetaceans", she said.

The push to ban cetacean captivity at Vancouver Aquarium was sparked by the tragic November 2016 deaths of two beluga whales, 29-year-old Aurora, and her 21-year-old daughter Qila.

Commissioners approved changes to the Parks Control bylaw that would prevent the aquarium from bringing in the animals known as cetaceans - a group that includes narwhals, dolphins, porpoises, killer whales and beluga whales - and bans "a show, performance or other form of entertainment, which includes one or more cetaceans".

Calling it a "tough decision", Wiebe said he was happy with the research the board's commissioners did before reaching a verdict.

Some park board members countered the notion that the cetacean ban prohibits the aquarium from rescuing animals.

The Marine Mammal Rescue Centre opened in January and is used to treat sick and inured marine mammals, but not house them.

It's a move the aquarium says would hinder their marine mammal rescue efforts and muddle an expansion plan that is already underway. Immediately following the vote, the Vancouver Aquarium threatened to file a lawsuit against the Vancouver Park Board. Many managed to squeeze into the meeting venue itself, mingling with other members of the public who sided with the majority of the board.

Although there are now no captive beluga whales in Vancouver, the Aquarium recently announced its intention to bring five belugas on loan in the United States back to B.C. upon completion of the new Arctic pools in 2019.

The captures certainly came at a great cost to many animals, said Colby, including both those that died during capture and those that survived but were separated from family forever.

Commissioner Catherine Evans agreed, saying the issue has been surrounded by "fear mongering".

The loss of cetaceans at the aquarium would also hurt Canadian researchers who rely on the facility, and will otherwise have to look south of the border to do work with whales and dolphins in captivity, he said.

Green Party City Councillor Adriane Carr says she understands why the decision was made and she has a message for the facility's CEO. Following the meeting, she said she was concerned that the legal and financial implications of the decision have not been discussed in public. As she spoke, hundreds of aquarium supporters stood outside in the pouring ran with signs reading "We support VanAqua" and "Every animal counts". "It breaks my heart to see them standing out there and fighting so hard for marine science and rehabilitation".

Six commissioners voted in favour of the motion, with independent commissioner Erin Shum voting against it.

"My opinion is that where and when we can to provide wildlife a helping hand, because as humans we are contributing to to the difficulties that many species face around the world." said Metchosin-based Marine Zoologist Anna Hall.

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