On 9th of March the Vancouver Aquarium park board voted unanimously to amend its bylaws, banning cetacean captivity at the park for good. The decision was met with overwhelming support from the crowd present at the meeting, and activists around the world.
The amendment has come at a vital time. Last month John Nightingale, the CEO of Vancouver Aquarium, announced the expansion of two whale pools and plans to bring back beluga whales that were ‘on loan’ to aquariums in the United States.
Following investigations and reports by staff, the board plans to reconvene in May this year to implement the amendment. Echoing the voice of animal rights activists who have been calling to empty the tanks for decades, this historic decision will hopefully set an example for other aquariums and marine parks to follow suit.
Over the past few years, Vancouver Aquarium has been under scrutiny by researchers, scientists and activists. In November last year two of the Aquarium’s beluga whales, a mother and her calf, died within days of each other. This, coupled with a growing worldwide adversary to cetaceans in captivity, undoubtedly affected the board members’ decision.
Three cetaceans remain at the aquarium including a false killer whale, a harbour porpoise, and a Pacific white-sided dolphin. The fate of these animals is uncertain, but scientists and activists remain hopeful they will be sent to a sea pen off the coast of British Colombia.
The sea sanctuary would provide a more enriched environment for the cetaceans where they would be able to feel the ocean’s currents and temperatures, and utilise their natural instincts.
According to the park board, there was ongoing pressure from activists, including protests and multiple online petitions, to vote in favour of ending captivity. This outcome is a victory for all those who continue to fight for an end to whale and dolphin captivity around the world.
It’s a reminder that your ongoing efforts are making a difference – bringing us one step closer to a world where whales and dolphins no longer suffer in tiny tanks for entertainment.