Success! The Vancouver Aquarium Will No Longer Keep Whales and Dolphins in Captivity

Animal advocates are celebrating another victory for whales and dolphins: Vancouver Aquarium has announced that it’s giving up its fight to keep them in captivity.

The announcement follows a string of recent deaths that have intensified the debate surrounding captive cetaceans there. In November 2016, the two remaining belugas, Aurora and her calf Qila, died within days of each other.

The Vancouver Aquarium has continued to find itself in the spotlight for its stance on keeping cetaceans in captivity, and has faced growing public opposition over the years. Its ongoing mistreatment of belugas and continued attempts to breed them landed it on a list of the 10 Worst Tanks for Dolphins and Whales in North America last year.

In 2014, the Vancouver Park Board voted to ban breeding whales and dolphins, and thousands of people spoke up encouraging it to keep the ban in place – more than 63,000 people signed a Care2 petition asking it not to reverse the ban.

Last year, the aquarium announced plans to phase out its beluga program by 2029, but first wanted to bring in five new belugas. Plans to bring in more, however, were thwarted by the Vancouver Park Board last year when it voted to stop the aquarium from bringing in any new whales and dolphins.

Although that vote is being challenged, the aquarium has changed its tune dramatically and announced that it will no longer keep any whales and dolphins in captivity. The aquarium said in a statement, 
”The ongoing discussions about whales and dolphins in our care have been a distraction from real threats to the ocean and have sidelined the critical work we lead. We aim to inspire people in every corner of the planet to participate in creating healthy oceans, and it’s time to get on with it.”

The decision is being welcomed as a major victory towards ending cetacean captivity by animal advocates and the park board.

“We are pleased that the Aquarium, with this decision, has acknowledged and recognized what we as Commissioners observed in passionate public debates on this issue over the last years,” said Park Board Chair Stuart Mackinnon. “The public told us they believed the continuing importation and display of these intelligent and sociable mammals was unethical and incompatible with evolving public opinion and we amended our bylaws accordingly. We look forward to working with the Vancouver Aquarium as it intensifies its focus on Ocean Wise research and conservation.”

Since the park board voted against bringing any more in, two more of the aquarium’s three cetaceans have died. This past June, a harbour porpoise named Daisy died, and then Chester, a false killer whale, died this past November leaving only Helen, a pacific white-sided dolphin, at the aquarium whose fate has yet to be decided.

While its ending public displays, the aquarium said it will continue with its rescue and rehabilitation work with the aim of releasing any whales and dolphins it aids back into the wild, and will work to find suitable homes for any who aren’t able to be released.

This change now leaves ever-troubled Marineland as the only facility in Canada keeping captive cetaceans, but hopefully ongoing public pressure will empty the tanks there too.

“We are delighted to hear that Vancouver Aquarium will no longer display whales and dolphins. This surprising but welcome decision is another nail in the coffin for the captivity industry and comes after a long battle with the City’s Park Board and animal welfare advocates who successfully argued that public opinion had shifted on the issue of keeping whales and dolphins in tanks,” said Rob Lott, Policy Manager for Whale and Dolphin Conservation.

For more on efforts to retire whales and dolphins who are currently in captivity to sea sanctuaries, check out the Whale Sanctuary Project and Whale and Dolphin Conservation.

Photo credit: Peter M Graham/Flickr

105 comments

heather g
heather g16 days ago

This has taken a long time to implement - but they're in no hurry......

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Danii P
Danii P20 days ago

thank you

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Emma Z
Emma Z24 days ago

Good news. Thank you.

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Joan E
Joan E25 days ago

With so much going haywire on this planet, we have to do what we can to make things normal for the creatures we have locked up.

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Jane R
Jane R25 days ago

Bravo! This is important. Let is hope the others will follow.

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Chrissie R
Chrissie R25 days ago

Thank you for posting.

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Marija M
Marija M25 days ago

Very good news, tks.

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sharon b
sharon b26 days ago

Thank goodness.

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Antje S
Antje S26 days ago

Good news

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Angela J
Angela J26 days ago

Thanks

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