August 1, 2014 8:06 am

Park board votes to keep cetacean program at Vancouver Aquarium, bans most breeding

The Vancouver Park Board has unanimously voted to keep the cetacean program at the Vancouver Aquarium, but to prohibit most breeding.

“I think we probably struck the right balance,” said Park Board Commissioner Aaron Jasper.

“There are probably many here that think we didn’t go far enough, there are probably many who thought we want too far.”

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The amendment to the current bylaw prohibits the breeding of captive cetaceans unless it is a threatened species and the captive breeding is necessary for the survival of the species.

The board also ordered the establishment of an oversight committee consisting of animal welfare experts to ensure the well-being of all cetaceans. The committee will prepare a bi-annual report for the park board.

“We’re most deeply disappointed,” said Vancouver Aquarium CEO John Nightingale.

“[They've] taken management of the animals, and to some degree our whole mission, away from the experts at the aquarium and transfer it to the politicians.”

The board met for the third time in less than a week tonight to discuss the contentious issue of whales and dolphins in captivity.

More than 130 people signed up to speak on the issue. The board says they have also received thousands of emails, public comments and inquiries.

The issue has prompted local petitions, protests and plenty of public comment.

The movement gained traction ever since the popularity of the documentary Blackfish about orcas in captivity at Sea World.

In addition to the public, several city officials and Dr. Jane Goodall have also publicly urged the Vancouver Aquarium to phase out the cetacean exhibits.

A report released earlier this month found the quality of the aquarium’s research and stranding-response programs could be compromised if the cetaceans were phased out.

The aquarium currently holds two Arctic beluga whales and two Pacific white-sided dolphins and they want to expand the tanks for these animals next year.

With files from Amy Judd

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