The Vancouver Park Board will vote tonight on the future of whales and dolphins in captivity at the Vancouver Aquarium.
The board has scheduled a special meeting for 6 p.m., in the wake of the Aquarium’s announcement last month to bring in new belugas before phasing out its cetacean program over the next decade.
On the table are four possible options, ranging from leaving things as they are to holding a referendum on dropping the cetacean program:
- Call on City Council to hold a plebiscite on captive cetaceans in the 2018 municipal election
- Accept the Vancouver Aquarium’s plans announced February 20
- Change Parks Control By-laws which regulate captive cetaceans in Vancouver parks
- Maintain the status quo
The board will vote on its preferred option and instruct staff to investigate and report back on how best to implement it.
The referendum idea was proposed back in December by former Park Board chair Sarah Kirby-Yung, and the board voted to have staff look into it back in January.
Option two involves deferring to the Aquarium’s own long term cetacean phase-out program announced last month. That plan involves expanding the facility’s Arctic exhibit by spring of 2019 and acquiring up to five new belugas.
The research program and display of belugas would be discontinued by 2029.
The third option involves amending existing by-laws which govern captive cetaceans in Vancouver parks. Those regulations currently block the import of whales and dolphins captured after 1996 unless they are in distress and in need of rehabilitation, or are endangered and have the assent of the board.
Changing the by-laws was the route the board considered back in 2014 when it initially voted to ban the breeding of cetaceans in captivity and create an oversight committee which would monitor the Aquarium.
That plan was dropped after the NPA won control of the Park Board in the 2014 municipal election.
The issue of cetaceans in captivity has taken centre stage in recent months, after two belugas died at the Vancouver Aquarium back in November.
The Aquarium says it still doesn’t know what caused Aurora and her daughter Qila to die just weeks apart, but hasn’t ruled out a toxin in the water or “something malicious.”