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Just months ago in November 2016, Qila, the first beluga born in a Canadian aquarium and Vancouver Aquarium’s long term resident, died at the age of 21. Shortly after, her 29-year-old mother, Aurora passed away. While the cause of death for this mother and daughter is unclear, a life in captivity is hardly what these animals deserved. According to the Aquarium, beluga whales can live up to 30 years in the wild whereas other sources say they can live as long as 70 years. If the latter is true, Qila and Aurora hardly had long lives.

And this isn’t the first time eyebrows have been raised at Vancouver Aquarium. In 2015, Dr. Ingrid Visser, Founder of and Principal Scientist for the Orca Research Trust, observed a young whale at the Vancouver Aquarium, known as Chester with wounds attributed to the behavior of self-mutilation.

With the suspicious death of their residents and questionable activities leaving animal lovers in outrage (such as a program where you can swim with captive belugas) surrounding the Vancouver Aquarium, their captivity program has been thrown into the spotlight. And it looks like this debate has lead to some positive news for the aquarium’s cetaceans. March 9, 2017, the Vancouver Park Board unanimously decided to “have staff look into amending the Parks Control bylaw to prohibit the importation and display of live whales, dolphins, and porpoises.” Effectively, this would lead to a ban on keeping whales in the facility.

According to the Vancouver Sun, the decision follows the Vancouver Aquarium’s announcement to bring in new belugas before phasing out its cetacean research program and the display of beluga whales by 2029. Staff has until May 2017 to investigate and report back on how best to implement the amendment.



Observing animals in captivity may make us aware of their existence and inspire awe and wonder, but it can also, perhaps unconsciously, cement in our minds that this type of captivity is okay. Further, it enforces the idea that it’s perfectly normal to house these animals in concrete boxes that attempt to mimic their wild homes.

If you don’t agree that marine animals should be confined in a concrete pool and robbed of their freedom, the best thing you can do is boycott all facilities that hold animals captive. By visiting an aquarium and paying for a ticket, you are paying to keep wild animals in captivity.

Share this article to spread this important message. Wild animals belong in the wild.

Image source: Lobo/Wikimedia Commons

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0 comments on “Park Board Unanimously Votes to Ban Whale Captivity at Vancouver Aquarium”

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john pasqua
1 Years Ago

ban all captivity on great animals now.

1 Years Ago

These places serve no purpose other than to line the pockets of many. Starting with the animal brokers who trap these beautiful creatures, steal them as babies from their families and then sell them to any shit hole aquarium that will pay the price. There is nothing educational about gawking a and screaming at depressed wild life living in tiny tanks and cages. You can learn mush more by watching an educational documentary.

Dr. Laura H Graham
1 Years Ago

Who the hell are you to condemn a species to extinction just to satisfy your misguided sense of moral superiority??? It is likely the vaquita will go extinct and I directly blame people like you for being unable to save them. You are as culpable as the poachers who feed the illegal wildlife trade. You should be ashamed of yourselves. We cannot guarantee the safety of wild populations of cetaceans from human-caused population declines and therefore it is imperative we provide safe-havens for breeding populations as a hedge against extinction. EDUCATE YOURSELVES As a conservation biologist for the past 3 decades I have focused my research program on studying the physiology of endangered species with the aim of generating data that can help with their conservation.  Captive facilities like zoos and aquaria are essential for housing wildlife species so that we can obtain data we could not obtain from a free-ranging individual.  And that data is then used to optimize management of the species in the wild.  Using an example from my research program, any non-invasive technique for assessing physiological parameters must be developed and validated using captive individuals. 
Furthermore, maintaining healthy breeding populations of wild species in zoos and aquaria are essential to provide emergency back up populations to recover species in the wild.  For example, I am involved in the captive breeding/reintroduction program for the Vancouver Island marmot.  When their populations crashed in the 1990’s due to clear cutting, the remaining animals were brought into captivity to set up a captive breeding/reintroduction program to increase numbers to sustainable levels.  However it took several years to optimize captive conditions for consistent breeding to take place and we still have not perfected it. We have lost valuable genetic diversity in the species because we did not already have a successfully breeding captive population when their wild populations crashed beyond natural recovery.  Another example is the vaquita, a cetacean.  This is the most endangered mammal species in the world and with fewer than 30 individuals left captive breeding is their only hope of avoiding extinction.  Yet, like the marmot, they have not been housed in captivity before, largely due to push back from willfully ignorant animal rights activists, so we have no idea if we can do it successfully.  If we already had a successful captive breeding program for the vaquita the outlook for avoiding extinction would be much more positive

1 Years Ago

I agree-let the people who think that captivity is OK should be made to live in something the size of a closet because that is what it is like for whales and dolphins. I always advocate giving abusers a taste of what they do to animals.

Harley Robert
1 Years Ago

By "bringing in" other belugas, they mean that they\'re buying them from countries like Japan, who capture and sell them. Vancouver should prohibit the aquarium from bringing in any other whales, dolphins or marine mammals and put a stop to this horror show.

Kate-Lyn Jones
1 Years Ago

This is amazing, now the aquarium will have to decide on what to do with its other Cetaceans. I would suggest that they look into creating a sea pen for them just like the Whale Sanctuary Project and the Baltimore National Aquarium is doing. This would keep them in human care but would also give the animals better living conditions. Best to put that money from the tank extensions into something like this.


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