The Vancouver Park Board has unanimously decided to have staff look into amending the Parks Control bylaw to prohibit the importation and display of live cetaceans.
The Thursday decision follows the Vancouver Aquarium’s announcement to bring in new belugas before phasing out its’ cetacean research program and the display of belugas by 2029.
On the table were four possible options, ranging from holding a plebiscite on captive cetaceans in the 2018 municipal election to keeping the situation as-is.
The board will now instruct staff to investigate and report back on how best to implement the amendment by May 15.
Vancouver Aquarium CEO and President John Nightingale issued a statement, which reads in part:
“For an enduring community organization founded by Vancouver residents, we feel the true essence of tonight’s topic was lost in the conversation.
Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre has a rich 60-year history of inspiring Canadians, of saving marine mammals in distress and of leading groundbreaking research to understand the questions that continue to confound scientists, including why we are now losing one to two species every single day.
While we debated the value of caring for and studying beluga whales, there is no debating that we are experiencing the biggest mass extinction since the age of dinosaurs.”
Commissioner Stuart Mackinnon, who put forward the motion, says it’s long overdue.
“They have known for 20 years that sentiment was changing. They’ve known for 20 years that this park board had issues with cetaceans in captivity and with the expansions so there would be more cetaceans in captivity.”
The deaths of belugas Aurora and daughter Qila in November of 2016 thrusted the issue of cetaceans in captivity into the spotlight.
The Aquarium says it still doesn’t know what caused them to die just weeks apart but hasn’t ruled out a toxin in the water or “something malicious.”