Amazing news, Green Monsters! In yet another indication that support for cetacean captivity is steadily ebbing away, two high-profile board members of the Vancouver Park Commission have publicly stated that although they admire Vancouver Aquarium’s conservation and education work, they would like to see all dolphins, whales, and porpoises removed from the park.

Vancouver Park Board Commissioner Sarah Blyth, and vice-chair Constance Barnes, have come to believe that containing the animals is cruel, and are appealing to the city board of Vancouver to officially put an end to it.

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Blyth says, “We’re getting letters every day about this. People have even approached me in the coffee shop and been like, ‘Are you Sarah Blyth? Oh, I wanted to talk with you about the whales.’”

She also says that her opinion began to change after the aquarium board received a petition, started by Marcie Callewaert, which had garnered more than 10,000 signatures and was too big to ignore. “One hundred years ago we thought slavery was okay too. It’s time to phase out whales and dolphins in captivity.”

Of the animals who may not be good candidates for release, Barnes says: “I’d like to see whales and dolphins out of our park. Phased out, not brought in ever again. Period. I’m just going to be very forward, once they are dead, they die, when they’re in captivity here we bring no more in.”

In 1996, the Vancouver Aquarium took the decision that they were never going to take any whales from the wild again, and became the first and only aquarium in the world to do so.

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The Vancouver case is an interesting one, as it demonstrates how other aquariums and captive animal facilities (are you listening, SeaWorld?) could begin to make the transition to focusing solely on conservation and rescue work.

Journalist Tim Zimmerman says that what interested him about Vancouver Aquarium’s response to “Blackfish” back in November was that it was “a lot more reasoned” than SeaWorld, and did not try to pretend that marine animals don’t suffer in captivity (an argument that has proven to be false.)

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Instead, they stated that animals’ presence in aquariums plays “a vital role in educating people about aquatic conservation … Seeing animals in aquariums has helped change public perception and increased support for conserving wild populations. There is no real substitute for connecting with our oceans and animals first-hand to generate a feeling of interest and engagement that leads to positive behavioural changes.” In other words, they felt that a type of trade-off was occurring, whereby the end (a few marine animals being kept in captivity) justified the means (promoting a greater appreciation of wild marine life as a whole).

However, it looks as though Vancouver Aquarium are finally beginning to realize that, while some people may indeed have begun to care about the plight of our oceans in a way they never had before after seeing captive animals, the captivity of intelligent, sociable whales and dolphins can no longer be justified.

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Image source: Lucas Gomas / Flickr

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