With the surprise election of a Green Party trustee to chair of the Vancouver Park Board, the question of whales in captivity is back in the spotlight.
Michael Wiebe was lifted to the position after NPA Commissioner Erin Shum broke ranks with her party to support him.
LISTEN: Michael Wiebe on captive cetaceans and priorities as new Park Board Chair
Wiebe says the time may be ripe to finally settle the long-simmering captivity debate, which has once again come to a boil with the death of a pair of belugas at the facility last month.
The issue last came seriously to the board in 2014, when it voted to ban whale and dolphin breeding at the facility.
“The last board had all of the meetings, and all the talks with the Aquarium, and had all of the scientists come in and did independent review,” Wiebe says.
But the ban was never implemented, instead being pushed until after the 2014 election, and stalling after the NPA won a majority.
“I think this has all been brought back up to the surface, and I think it’s a good time, it’s a time for our board to get the information, and to finally make a decision moving forward,” he says.
Wiebe says a motion brought forward by outgoing chair Sarah Kirby-Yung to consider a referendum on the issue will go ahead as planned next month.
And he says they’ve asked parks staff to look into the legality of blocking planned renovations at the aquarium, which involve expanding the tanks.
“This is something that every jurisdiction is looking at, provincially, federally, you’re seeing a lot of different aquatic centres go away from having cetaceans. I think as the education, the science rolls in, I think as we continue to learn more about the animals, I think the phasing out is looking like more of an oportunity,” he says.
That said, Wiebe says he’s committed to working as a team with Commissioners from all parties.
That’s something he’ll have no choice but to do, with just two Green Commissioners on the board, to the NPA’s four and Vision Vancouver’s one.