Canada may soon vote on a bill to outlaw whale and dolphin captivity. The Ending the Captivity of Whales and Dolphins Act (S-203) will most likely be voted on by the Canadian Senate before the end of June 2018. If it passes, the measure will ban new cases of cetacean captivity with exception of rescues and open water retirement sanctuaries that prohibit breeding.
The bill was first introduced three years ago by Senator Wilfred Moore who argued that keeping whales and dolphins in captivity is “unjustifiably cruel” and won a critical first vote, The Whale Sanctuary Project reports. Even though S-203 is generally considered to be non-partisan, its progress has been relentlessly stalled at every stage of the proceedings by Conservative senators.
The bill prohibits the export or import of whales and dolphins except if licensed for the best interest of the animals themselves; for example, in case of transport to a sanctuary or rescue of a suffering animal, or for legitimate scientific research. Whales and dolphins that are already kept in captivity, for instance, in marine entertainment parks, would be allowed to remain in the facilities under the new law. Unfortunately, this provision would include the 51 belugas, several bottlenose dolphins, and one orca now alive at Marineland of Canada. Hopefully, public pressure will encourage Marineland to send their animals to a sanctuary as an alternative if the law passes.
The Senate’s Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans held the total of 17 hearings and heard from more than 40 witnesses, including six members of the Whale Sanctuary Project team.
The committee voted in favor of the bill in October 2017 and its report was adopted by the full Senate in April 2018, opening the way to move to the third reading debate. According to Moore, who was replaced by the renowned Senator Murray Sinclair after retirement, there is no reason to wait beyond the end of May for a vote.
“There’s a lot of very solid public and Parliamentary support for this bill on both sides of the aisle,” he said. “We have the best marine scientists from across the globe supporting the bill either in person, written brief or by video conference. Clearly, the Canadian public is with us. There’s no doubt about that, so we’re not going anywhere. We’re in this. We believe in what we’re doing.”
If it is passed, the bill will go on to the House of Commons for what is expected to be its final passage. Outlawing whale and dolphin captivity in the country would be a huge win for those intelligent animals that simply do not belong in tanks. Once they are put in aquariums, cetaceans are sentenced to a life of constant distress and frustration, as their enclosures can never compare to their natural habitat nor replace their family structure.
It is wonderful to see such important legislation making progress in Canada, and we certainly hope that other countries across the world will follow suit.
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