Possible Referendum on Whales in Captivity

Comments 13 by Rebecca Bollwitt

Vancouver Parks Board Commissioner Stuart Mackinnon has put forward a motion that could see the public voting on whether or not we should have whales in captivity in Vancouver [source]. The referendum would take place during the next municipal election in 2011.

Vancouver Aquarium

The Vancouver Aquarium has been around since June of 1956 and in 1975 it was the first aquarium accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). In 1987 was designated Canada’s Pacific National Aquarium by the Canadian Federal Government [source].

When I was young they used to have Orcas in the main tank (Hyak, Finna and Bjossa), performing shows that would splash the crowd. The last Orca was removed from the Aquarium in 2001 as they sought to take on a more educational aspect of their marine life displays rather than entertainment-oriented spectacles.

Dolphin Presentation

They’ve have dolphins throughout the years (who are now in the old Orca tank) which are part of a smaller presentation about marine conservation and rescue. There are a few Belugas still at the Aquarium although there have been several baby Beluga deaths recently, which prompted the timely call for action from the Parks Board.

Qila and Calf @ The Vancouver Aquarium

The Aquarium released an official statement yesterday: “The Vancouver Aquarium strongly opposes the plebiscite motion on the July 19th Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation meeting agenda. The Aquarium believes the discussion of the motion should take place at the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation meeting, and will address the motion at that time.”

Update July 20, 2010 CTV Reports: “Vancouver’s park commissioners have rejected a motion urging a non-binding plebiscite on the issue in next year’s civic election.”

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13 Comments  —  Comments Are Closed

  1. klparrotThursday, July 15th, 2010 — 10:02am PDT

    Since 1996, the Vancouver Aquarium has had a policy not to take cetaceans from the wild (with the exception of unreleasable rescued animals) or accept from other aquaria any cetaceans captured since 1996. The animals they currently have are not releasable, and have as good a life at the Vancouver Aquarium as they would at any other facility. There’s no reason the Aquarium should have to give them up; it would be a loss of educational opportunities, enjoyment, and tourism dollars for this city. And I only point out the tourism revenue because it’s noteworthy, not because it’s worth keeping animals in captivity just for profit.

  2. Ian Andrew BellThursday, July 15th, 2010 — 10:15am PDT

    “How do you feel about whales in captivity in Vancouver?”

    How would anyone feel about being locked in a bathroom with glass walls for the rest of their life?

  3. SharonThursday, July 15th, 2010 — 10:18am PDT

    Honestly, I’m a little torn. I think it’s a great educational opportunity for kids, and an excellent tourist destination, but animals in captivity always make me feel a little sad for them, since they’re cooped up and not in their natural wild habitat.

    I appreciate that they’ve moved away from the entertainment shows in the past 10 years, but I think the place would lose some of its charm if they removed all the whales from the aquarium.

  4. DarrenThursday, July 15th, 2010 — 12:00pm PDT

    I’d like to see some expert opinions on the educational value, but I think it’s a changing argument. Consider how our presentational technology (computer screens, TVs, movies et all) have improved, bringing people that much closer to depictions of whales in the wild.

    I think keep large mammals in captivity is abhorrent, regardless of where they originate. I’d rather see unreleasable cetaceans euthanized than forced to spend their lives in a small pool.

  5. SamanthaThursday, July 15th, 2010 — 12:18pm PDT

    @Sharon I am torn as well. But I have one question – if the Aquarium no longer had whales in captivity, what would it mean for their bottom line? The Aquarium is active in the community in education as well as scientific research. Would taking the whales away impact the positive things the Aquarium is involved in? Just some questions to ponder.

  6. JeffThursday, July 15th, 2010 — 1:12pm PDT

    While I completely agree that wild animals should not be captured and subjected to living conditions such as the ones they have at the aquarium the animals they do take in were either injured and would have more than likely died as a result of not being in captivity or were born in captivity and more than likely would not survive in the wild.

    I’m also aware they are treated very humanely.

  7. Keira-AnneThursday, July 15th, 2010 — 2:16pm PDT

    I’m of the personal opinion that it’s a black and white issue. While it would be unreasonable, unfair and unsafe to release these captured creatures into the wild, I don’t believe that the aquarium should acquire any further whales, dolphins or the like. As an extension of that opinion, I also believe that further breeding should be prohibited. It’s completely sad that whales and dolphins born into captivity will never, ever know what it’s truly like to be the way they were created to be.

    While I can’t argue that these gentle giants give Vancouver’s economy an immense shot in the arm, and some hold the opinion that these captive whales provide a unique educational experience, the value of life is greater than the value of a dollar. This is British Columbia – if one wants to experience whales or dolphins in their natural environment, hop on a ferry. Their fares are cheaper than aquarium admission. Whales and dolphins are anything but natural when held in glass-walled pens.

    The Vancouver Aquarium is a leading research facility and much of their research funding comes from aquarium admission. However, couldn’t the lack of funds due to a decline in admission be compensated by the negated funds previously used to maintain the whale and dolphin exhibits and their trainers?

  8. DEBBIEFriday, July 16th, 2010 — 8:02am PDT

    I don’t believe these creatures should be released into the wild, as they do not know how to survive, and that would mean death for them.

    I also agree with keira, that they should not be able to get anymore whales, dolphins etc, unless the animal has an injury where if they stay in the wild they would die.

  9. Vancouver AquariumFriday, July 16th, 2010 — 11:32am PDT

    The Vancouver Aquarium is extending a sincere thank you to our supporters. Here is a portion of that statement, and the link below contains the full version.

    “…As a non-profit organization seeking to engage, amaze and inspire, we depend on the continued support of the community and are grateful to all those who have taken the time to connect with us over the past 48 hours. Your actions speak volumes and, clearly, we have devoted Aquarium supporters near and far who believe in the work that we do…”


  10. TylerFriday, July 16th, 2010 — 2:01pm PDT

    Granted I do miss the days of the Orcas at the Aquarium, they are far too large of a creature to keep in such small quarters. Same go for the Dolphins/Porpoises and Beluga whales. I hope that the Harbour Porpoise they currently have become healthy enough they can release her back into the ocean from where she came.

    I do like that the Aquarium rescues critters and gets them ready to go back into the wild though.

    It is cool (from a kids perspective) to see creatures we normally don’t see. I know I was fasinated to see the killer whales in the Oak Bay Marina when we used to live on the island. Though since I’ve grown up and I have seen many aquatic animals in the wild, I feel sad for those who are in really small pens/glass boxes etc. Glad they moved them out of the Oak Bay Marina.

    I do highly recommend going on a Whale Watching tour with Prince of Whales (or other reputable company) if you have never seen a whale in its natural environment though.

    Now don’t get me started on the Vancouver “zoo” either 😉

  11. A Vancouver Island Blog by a Vancouver Island Girl » Blog Archive » Save A Horse, Eat A DonutFriday, July 16th, 2010 — 3:42pm PDT

    […] with a similar deliberation in Vancouver. Vancouver Parks Board Commissioner Stuart Mackinnon is putting forth a motion to hold a public referendum and consider whether or not whales should be held in captivity. Using […]

  12. Tracy ShierSaturday, July 17th, 2010 — 3:39pm PDT

    The whales take 3 strokes with their huge fin and they’re at the other end of the tank. The artificial environment and interaction with human beings is unnatural and cruel. It’s not about education – it’s more of a thrill – at the expense of a gorgeous creature – I support MacKinnon with his push for the plebiscite, and hope that these large creatures will be let out of our grasping hands and left to be free in the wild. If the parents out there are so worried about the loss of this “great educational outlet” look it up on the net, rent some videos made by divers or National Geographic where we go into THEIR environment. Perhaps your children would learn to be more humble with God’s majestic creation and not think we as humans own it all.

  13. SarahSunday, August 8th, 2010 — 11:45am PDT

    “I don’t believe these creatures should be released into the wild, as they do not know how to survive, and that would mean death for them.”

    Lets try and remember that we are not saying we should dump these animals back into the ocean and wish them luck. It may be possible to reintroduce some of them, and if not then they can live in a sea pen. They will at least have more space.

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