Vancouver Aquarium 'not ready to give up the fight' following bylaw vote

17 May, 2017, 07:28 | Author: Jonathon Greene
  • Park board approves bylaw banning whales, dolphins at Vancouver Aquarium

The Vancouver Aquarium is concerned that injured dolphins, whales and porpoises could die on the coast if a motion to ban showing live cetaceans on park property by the Vancouver Park Board is passed Monday night.

The aquarium will be allowed keep the three whales that now live there, but the decision means the belugas would no longer be used in shows or performances, and no new cetaceans can be kept in captivity.

The Vancouver Park Board voted on the decision last night, 6-1, which also includes a ban on "a show, performance or other form of entertainment, which includes one or more cetaceans".

Aquarium CEO John Nightingale said the agency would fight the ban because it would effectively shut down the aquarium's Marine Mammal Rescue Centre.

Several park board commissioners have said the public sentiment has shifted in recent years to being generally against holding large animals at the facility, particularly after two belugas died at the aquarium after being exposed to an unidentified toxin.

Meantime, Vancouver City Councillor and former Park Board Commissioner Melissa De Genova says she respects the board's "independent" decision.

"I'm concerned about any legal risks that the city may assume considering previous decisions of the Vancouver Park Board and the fact that the aquarium, I understand from reports in the media, went forward with a large expansion for the objective of having a place for rescued marine mammals and cetaceans along with other exhibits that they have".

Commissioner John Coupar noted that the decision would only affect cetaceans in Stanley Park, where it has jurisdiction, and not the aquarium's marine mammal rescue centre at the Main Street docks.

But the ban will seriously hamper the aquarium's cetacean rescue and rehabilitation programs, said Nightingale in an interview on CKNW.

"I know you will stand with me and not give up, so we will continue to oppose what the park board has just done in various ways", Nightingale told supporters following the vote. They will be allowed to stay, but under the new bylaw, can not take part in any "shows". Many managed to squeeze into the meeting venue itself, mingling with other members of the public who sided with the majority of the board.

Before the vote, the aquarium had said it planned to phase out its cetacean program by 2029, the same year its lease in Stanley Park ended.

Indeed, such "fear-mongering", as Visions' Catherine Evans labelled it, as well as the moral imperative of their decision, appeared to unify what is otherwise a politically diverse and outspoken board.

Green Party City Councillor Adriane Carr says she understands why the decision was made and she has a message for the facility's CEO. Vice-chair Erin Shum was the only board member to vote against it.

"It's very much the aquarium's mission, and I don't care whether you're a jellyfish, a salmon, a harbour seal or a dolphin".

Commissioner Sarah Kirby-Yung said Monday that while she commended the aquarium for making a suggestion, where staff and the board differed was the timeline. "At the same time, we've read the proposed bylaw and we think it really is absolutely fantastic... and I think it's crafted in a way that its a challenge to the aquarium to become better, and that's what we've been fighting for".

"We have a moral obligation to those animals", he said.



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