One of the world’s top aquariums, the Vancouver Aquarium, has announced it will stop displaying whales and dolphins in its popular exhibit.
Just one cetacean still lives in the aquarium. Over recent years, two belugas, a porpoise and a false killer whale have all died from various causes. Only Helen, a Pacific white-sided dolphin who was brought to the aquarium after getting caught in a Japanese fishing net 12 years ago, remains at the facility.
Aquarium CEO John Nightingale said in a release that the people who fought to get whales out of captivity was taking too much of the aquarium’s focus and energy.
We are moving into a new era.”
What’s going on in the world’s oceans is changing so rapidly, it needs every ounce of effort that all of us can give it. We could use the energy that those people spend bashing the aquarium to help with issues in nature. And I don’t care what they want to do, what cause they pick – there’s so much to be done.”
Helen, who has only partial flippers can’t be released into the wild. Believed to be in her early 30s, Helen is considered a senior-aged dolphin. The aquarium had tried to find her a companion because dolphins are a social species but says that because of court challenges and long processes in getting Helen a companion, it has been difficult to get another cetaceans.
The Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Centre is the only marine mammal hospital of its kind in Canada and Nightingale said it 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 to 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, on a temporary basis, we may need to house a rescued cetacean at our unique facility until an appropriate receiving facility has been identified. The Aquarium’s intention is to continue to provide temporary care to rescued cetaceans as requested by professional veterinarians and DFO.
Despite the change in approach, Nightingale said the aquarium is still challenging the Vancouver Park Board’s decision to ban any new whales, dolphins or porpoises from being brought into the facility.
A judicial review will determine whether the move violated the aquarium’s contract, something Nightingale argued is an important issue to resolve moving forward.
The aquarium also wants the right to occasionally care for rescued whales and dolphins on a temporary basis until they can be transported elsewhere.
Camille Labchuk, a lawyer and executive director of Animal Justice, called the move a tremendous victory and that the aquarium has finally accepted that whale and dolphin captivity is no longer social acceptable in Canada.
But the Aquarium’s new position comes extremely late in the game. For decades, the Aquarium has fought tooth and nail against attempts to restrict or prohibit whale and dolphin captivity at its facility. The Aquarium is now backing down from this fight, but only after years of being the target of protests, being embroiled in lawsuits, and hit with a ban on cetacean captivity imposed by Vancouver’s Park Board.”