On the 31st July 2014, something historic happened in Vancouver, Canada. At a special meeting organised to focus on the captivity of whales and dolphins at the Vancouver Aquarium, the Vancouver Park Board voted unanimously in favour of an end to captive breeding at the aquarium. The Board has now directed its staff to bring forward an amendment to the park bylaw that regulates activity at the aquarium, that would prohibit breeding of whales, dolphins and porpoises at the aquarium, unless they are a threatened species. The Board has also ordered the establishment of an oversight committee of experts on animal welfare, to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the whales and dolphins held at the aquarium, which includes belugas, Pacific white-sided dolphins and harbour porpoises. It also asked the aquarium to investigate alternatives to whale and dolphin captive displays.
The aquarium has long been the subject of intense criticism over its incarceration of whales and dolphins and this decision follows recent statements from Vancouver’s Mayor, which support the phasing out of whale and dolphin captivity at the aquarium and growing concern about the aquarium’s expansion plans and whether further belugas will be housed there. Whether these plans will be affected by the Park Board’s decision remains to be seen.
WDC supports these efforts to phase out captivity at the Vancouver Aquarium. The Vancouver Park by-law already prohibits the import of whales and dolphins captured in the wild after September 1996 and an amendment to prohibit captive breeding should prevent further whales and dolphins being born at the aquarium to suffer a lifetime in captivity.