A small victory for the whales and dolphins of the Vancouver Aquarium! Since the announcement that the Vancouver Aquarium would consider ending their captivity program, enormous pressure has been placed on the CEO of the aquarium to make this important action come to fruition.
The board’s decision to keep the whales and dolphins already living in the aquarium captive was a unanimous one, however, when it came to the continuation of their captive breeding program it became clear that a change was in order.
In a report from CBCNews, Vancouver park board chair Aaron Jasper is quoted as saying, “Every time we came back to the breeding program, we just felt that’s a program that might serve other purposes, but we were not convinced that it served the purpose of conservation, rescue rehabilitation or research. So that’s where we drew the line in the sand.”
Conceding to the point that while breeding captive cetaceans would bring the park profit for years to come, it could no longer be pretended that this program served the interests of these animals. The board also opted to continue research that would assess the well-being of the cetaceans that are being held at the aquarium, as well as to look for alternatives to captivity (such as rehabilitation and release programs).
But it does not appear that this is the end of the discussion. According to the Globe and Mail, John Nightingale, The Vancouver Aquarium’s CEO, reportedly was, “deeply disappointed,” in the decision not to phase out captivity, believing that this decision came from the board’s “naivete” as they had never taken care of these animals. In fact, there is no “formal” breeding program in place, “but healthy marine mammals sometimes mate,” Nightindale also expressed that, “depriving them of that would be akin to animal cruelty.”
However, commissioner, Constance Barnes, explains to The Straight, “Most of our whales are not in Vancouver…They are in SeaWorld and at the Georgia Aquarium. And I think that people have questions about that and how we fit into an international breeding program. Do we want to be a part of this?”
Vancouver Aquarium is in the process of expanding their facilities and once completed, the three beluga whales on loan to SeaWorld will be returned.
Ric O’Barry, the prominent cetacean activist and expert, has offered his support to help the Vancouver Aquarium institute rehabilitation and release programs for their dolphins and beluga whales. O’Barry has extensive experience in this area, yet the board’s decision to “continue research” points to perhaps a desire to continue pulling profits from their current captive whales and dolphins.
The future for these animals is still yet to be seen, but nevertheless it is the beginnings of a positive step.
Image source: Lobo/Wikimedia Commons