The Vancouver Aquarium is calling on the public to ratchet up pressure against a proposed Park Board ban on whales and dolphins in captivity.
At the centre of the appeal is the Aquarium’s assertion the ban would threaten its marine mammal rescue program, which incoming Board Chair Randy Pratt says is unique in Canada.
“We are part of a community that cherishes wildlife, and we do not believe this proposed ban is in the best interest of the city of Vancouver, the province of BC, or the 100 or so distressed animals the marine mammal rescue program saves every year.”
Aquarium CEO John Nightingale says the ban could be a death sentence for whales and dolphins that are rescued but too injured to ever be re-released.
“In those cases, we are proud and thankful to have a world renowned rescue program that can provide both ongoing, care and a new home for these animals. The Vancouver Park Board’s proposed ban will jeopardize that ability and could easily eliminate the care of stranded cetaceans.”
The Aquarium has now launched a website focused on the rescue program, which includes the option to sign and send a form letter opposing the ban to Park Commissioners.
But the Park Board isn’t backing down on its plan.
Chair Michael Wiebe says the Board supports the rescue program but says that rescued cetaceans account for a fraction of the animals it treats.
But Wiebe says while an injured beluga or orca may be treated at the Centre, even if it can’t go back into the wild it won’t be staying at the Aquarium.
“It will not be allowed to come back into Stanley Park. We voted as a board that any cetacean will not be allowed to return to Stanley Park. That doesn’t mean it can’t stay at the rescue centre, it can’t be released, it can’t be moved to another facility, but it will not be brought into Stanley Park.”
The Park Board voted to move forward with a cetacean ban back in March, and an amended bylaw to do just that will go to a vote on May 15.
The long-simmering issue of whales and dolphins in captivity has come to a boil in recent months after the last two belugas living at the Aquarium died in November.
Last week, the Aquarium reported that a toxin was to blame for the deaths and suggested it may have been introduced by humans.
The Aquarium has said it plans to phase out its cetacean program by 2029, the same year its lease with the Park Board expires.
However, it says it plans to expand its arctic exhibit and bring other belugas it owns, currently housed at other facilities, back to the city before then.
With files from Jeremy Lye