Victory! Vancouver Aquarium Captivity Stopped Dead in the Water
After decades of effort by whale and dolphin advocates like you, Vancouver Parks Board commissioners voted six to one on May 15 to end performances and imports of beluga whales and dolphins at Vancouver Aquarium, effective immediately. The new legislation allows the aquarium to keep the three cetaceans currently at the facility who were rescued but deemed unreleasable. However, the Aquarium will no longer be allowed to make them perform for audiences.
In Defense of Animals asked you, our members and activist subscribers, to contact the Parks Board. You sent thousands of emails and made countless phone calls to the Parks Board over the past several months. It worked. Our first alert to you was so effective that your emails and calls overwhelmed the Parks Board communications system, according to Parks Board commissioners we are in contact with, and who supported the ban from the start. Over time, the sentiment of the remaining commissioners to end captivity at the Vancouver Aquarium became almost unanimous.
The latest push to ban captivity at the Aquarium was sparked by the tragic November 2016 deaths of two beluga whales, 29 year old Aurora, and her 21 year old daughter Qila. They died slowly from a toxin. This, and the deaths of three additional belugas who died within three years of being born there since 2005, earned Vancouver Aquarium the #9 spot on In Defense of Animals' 2016 Ten Worst Tanks list. Though Vancouver Aquarium operates as a nonprofit, the Aquarium, its president John Nightingale, and others take part in managing and supporting for-profit captivity businesses in the U.S. and Europe where captive whales and dolphins are induced to perform shows. This “entertainment” is where the big money is, so they are fighting to keep it.
After the most recent deaths, the Aquarium conducted an extensive investigation that concluded an unknown toxin killed Aurora and Qila. To this day, Aquarium leadership and staff insinuate that anti-captivity advocates may have poisoned the beluga whales you and other advocates have worked so hard to protect. The Aquarium’s substantial campaign to stop the ban often cites its rescue work and research roles, even though it had already agreed to end beluga captivity in 2029, twelve years from now. The Aquarium fails to mention its power to raise money for projects, including a current $100 million dollar expansion project. A new rescue center could be built and field research conducted within and next to a natural bay without it creating a public thirst for captivity in the middle of a large city – which is decidedly unnatural habitat for any cetacean.
The Vancouver Aquarium will not give up its lucrative beluga and dolphin shows easily. Already, it is threatening to file a lawsuit to get its deadly way. One thing is clear: you made a difference, and the whales and dolphins won. We at In Defense of Animals are grateful for your support for the whales and our work. Let’s create more victories for those in captivity who are powerless to oppose their captors. Please email the commissioners now to thank them with your own word.