Success! Vancouver Bans Captive Whales and Dolphins

Animal advocates are celebrating a major victory for captive whales and dolphins following an announcement that the Vancouver Park Board voted unanimously to ban keeping them on display at the Vancouver Aquarium.

The Vancouver Aquarium has continued to find itself at the center of debates surrounding cetacean captivity. Its ongoing mistreatment of belugas and continued attempts to breed them landed it on In Defense of Animals’ (IDA) first annual list of the 10 Worst Tanks for Dolphins and Whales in North America over the summer. It was also the subject of Vancouver Aquarium Uncovered  – a recent documentary that exposed how it’s deceiving the public about its practices.

Following the recent deaths of mother and daughter belugas, Aurora and Qila, who died mysteriously within days of each other in November, the issue spurred debate about whether the aquarium’s cetacean exhibits should be shut down.

The aquarium had recently announced it would be closing its beluga exhibit by 2029, but would be bringing five non-breeding belugas back who are currently on loan to other marine parks until then.

Now, it looks like those belugas may never return. While the Vancouver Park Board was considering a measure that would have potentially brought this issue to voters in the next civic election, members took immediate action to bring cetacean captivity to an end.

After two nights of public meetings, the Vancouver Park Board voted to ban the import and display of whales, dolphins and porpoises in Vancouver.  An amendment that will change the current bylaw to make this official is now being considered, and it could go into effect as soon as mid-May.

“My fellow Commissioners and I unanimously supported changing the bylaw to prohibit the display of cetaceans at the Aquarium,” said Park Boar Chair Michael Wiebe. “This is a historic decision following many years of debate about cetaceans in Vancouver.

The aquarium still has three cetaceans in its care, including Helen, a Pacific white-sided dolphin, Daisy, a harbor porpoise and Chester, a false killer whale, whose fate hasn’t been decided yet. The proposed bylaw may allow them to stay for the remainder of their lives, or require their removal, but they are now the last the aquarium will ever have.

Sarah Kirby-Yung, a commissioner who formerly worked as the aquarium’s spokeswoman, said it became clear after public meetings and receiving thousands of comments on cetacean captivity that the vote was the “the will of Vancouverites.”

More than 80,000 Care2 members signed a petition against Vancouver Aquarium’s cetacean breeding program. The petition was part of a broad campaign to put pressure on Vancouver, and it worked.

“Our job is to listen to the public,” Kirby-Yung told the Globe and Mail. “This is an issue where public sentiment has been changing and, progressively, people have been feeling more and more uncomfortable.”

Hopefully people will keep the pressure on and more facilities will soon follow the lead of those that are closing their exhibits and ending the confinement of these highly intelligent and social animals for nothing more than our profit and entertainment.

Photo credit: Thinkstock


Marie W
Marie Wabout a year ago

Thanks for sharing.

Carl R
Carl R1 years ago


Caitlin B
Past Member 1 years ago

That's good. Thanks for letting us know.

Carl R
Carl R1 years ago


Christian M
Christian Menges1 years ago

I like

RICKY S1 years ago


Roberto M
Roberto M1 years ago


Nicole H

It's about time that at least someone understands the harm they do to these beautiful creatures by keeping them locked up. These animals do swim several hundreds of miles each day to get their food. Most of them live in groups, enabling a better hunting of their food, like herrings and sardines. When locked up, they are getting bored, suffer from depression, hurt themselves by throwing their heads against the walls, etc.. The best proof is that there are so many deaths occurring in each and every aquarium. And then the "amusement" part. These animals are not toys for the humans. They do not like the stupid tricks they have to do, they just do it because it is a little change in their boring days and for the treats. I wonder how you would feel, being in a cage 24/7 and doing some stupid dance once or twice a day to get a piece of chocolate or a cookie.... Wouldn't you rather be dead ?? I would in any case. Freedom is for everyone, specially for the wildlife animals. So Thanks Vancouver for taking this decision. Hope many will follow soon now.

Elaine W
Elaine W1 years ago

Some minds and hearts have been changed. We must continue the momentum.

Olga S
Olga S1 years ago

Great news! thank you for making changes!