Vancouver Aquarium Expands Its Beluga Captivity
Despite growing public opposition, the Vancouver Aquarium recently announced that it intends to go forward with a $20 million dollar expansion to increase cetacean capacity so that it can bring back as many as five belugas from SeaWorld and other facilities currently on loan for “breeding” in the U.S. This took the Vancouver Parks Board by surprise as it is actively considering options before voting whether or not to end captivity by board action or by a referendum presented to Vancouver voters.
The Aquarium’s announcement appears intended to undercut and outwit Parks Board commissioners who have been waiting for a staff report that would outline options to respond to the tragic deaths of Qila and her mother Aurora in November 2016, as well as prevent future deaths in captivity.
The Vancouver Aquarium also announced it “intends” (not promises) to end beluga captivity by 2029 and not breed belugas until then, even after spending $20 million on the expansion project slated to begin later this year. Nothing was said about what would happen to any remaining belugas who might survive until that time.
The Vancouver Parks Board, which oversees the Aquarium’s lease on public land, continues to consider ways to ban captivity. The next step in that process is the March 8 public hearing being held by the Parks Board. The board’s commissioners are increasingly challenged directly by the Aquarium’s aggressive moves. This isn’t surprising because the Aquarium, which is a nonprofit, has developed for-profit businesses strategies that include managing major commercial captivity businesses elsewhere (Spain, and now it seems, China) that feature circus “show business” exploitation of belugas and other cetaceans. In reality, the Vancouver Aquarium is part of an interlocking multinational corporate for-profit conglomerate that exploits cetaceans and other species.
How the Parks Board commissioners will respond to Vancouver Aquarium’s latest aggressive attack on the public process remains to be seen. Previous commissioners have backed down when faced with the well-funded aquarium mounted public relations and marketing campaigns that out maneuvered anti-captivity campaigns in the past. What’s certain is that Vancouver Aquarium will invest its moneyed PR power into doing whatever it wants. For this and other reasons, Vancouver made the #9 spot for In Defense of Animals 2016 Ten Worst Tanks for whales and dolphins.
Vancouver Aquarium seemed happy to stand by for years while “their” Canadian belugas were repeatedly abused in forced-breeding programs at SeaWorld. These belugas and other cetaceans deserve the justice and dignity of being retired to a seaside sanctuary where they can live out their lives in as natural a circumstance as possible. We will have further updates, so stay tuned for what you can do to ensure the abuse by confinement ends.