Dozens of animal rights activists gathered outside a Vancouver Park Board meeting tonight to demand a public referendum on whales held in captivity at the Vancouver Aquarium.
The park board is set to debate the motion on the review of the practice of keeping captive cetaceans in Stanley Park.
The activists with “No Whales In Captivity” group penned a joint letter to the Vancouver Park Board with 16 other local animal advocacy groups asking to be included in the discussion on the issue.
In the letter, the activists claim cetaceans kept in captivity in the Vancouver Aquarium “suffer greatly from the very condition of their confinement” and that “live captive exhibits of suffering whales and dolphins are not needed to raise public awareness about the need to protect their habitat in the wild.”
Protesters say they will also be attending tomorrow morning’s City Hall meeting where a motion on a possible plebiscite on phasing out cetaceans at the Vancouver Aquarium will be heard.
The motion says the upcoming November 15th civic election offers an opportunity for a non-binding plebiscite.
WATCH: Cetaceans in captivity on Vancouver Parks Board meeting agenda
Earlier this month, Green party councillor Adrianne Carr said the question would only be added to the ballot if the park board and the Vancouver Aquarium don’t reach an agreement before the November election to phase out keeping whales and dolphins in captivity.
Mayor Gregor Robertson has said he’d like to see the whales and dolphins program phased out though he does not support a referendum during the election and hopes the aquarium and the park board come to an agreement before then.
Following Robertson’s statement, the aquarium said the mayor might not understand the vital role belugas and dolphins play in its conservation efforts.
Two Vancouver Park Board commissioners have also joined the debate, saying they believe it is time the aquarium got rid of its whale and dolphin enclosures.
In February, the Vancouver Aquarium announced they will be renovating into a larger facility by 2020, which had critics worried that more whales and dolphins will be kept in captivity. However, the aquarium is adamant there are no current plans to have more dolphins and whales.
With files from the Canadian Press