The Vancouver Park Board has voted in favour of banning any new cetaceans into the Vancouver Aquarium.
The proposed amendments would allow current cetaceans Chester, Helen, and Daisy to stay, but future dolphins, whales, or porpoises can no longer be brought into the aquarium, put on display, or used for a performance.
The board voted six to one in favour of the bylaw during a meeting Monday night.
Aquarium President John Nightingale was asked if the aquarium is prepared to break the bylaw if it meant saving a marine mammal verses letting one die.
“That’s one of the questions that we will have to wrestle with. Our compassion is for animals, every animals, it’s not selected. Talking our 500 staff and 13 hundred volunteers out of rescuing animals would be a very hard thing to do.”
Park Board Commissioners said injured and endangered marine mammals could still be rehabilitated at the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre because that’s not the park board’s jurisdiction, but the aquarium is.
Park Board Chair Michael Wiebe has said the Vancouver Aquarium would have to fund the Centre for costs.
Nightingale was asked if the aquarium would fund the mammal centre?
“Sure we can. The problem is many cetaceans can’t go back and live in nature so if you can’t provide a long term for them, than DFO is unlikely to let us rescue them because why would you rescue an animal and get it well and then have to euthanize it because there’s no home. We’re the only home in Canada.”
Here's the view from inside Vancouver aquarium. Pro aquarium protestors chanting: 'Every animal matters' pic.twitter.com/WikXjNHFGG
— Emily Lazatin (@EmilyLazatin980) May 16, 2017
The only Park Board commissioner to vote against the bylaw amendment, Vice Chair Erin Shum, says she can’t support the decision because it puts politics, ideology, and emotion before science, evidence-based research, and the rehabilitation of injured animals.
“I remain concerned about potential legal and financial implications to taxpayers and residents. The Park Board has not been presented with sufficient information to understand or mitigate those concerns for the long term, despite my understanding that such briefings were provided to the previous Park Board. I remain concerned about the safety, operational, and transitional impacts for the majestic marine animals currently housed in the Aquarium, and equally concerned about those for whom treatment and a long-term home may not be available in future if we approve this bylaw. I remain concerned that we are not thinking enough about the long-term implications of this decision.”
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.