August 1, 2014 12:32 pm

‘I am most deeply disappointed at the park board’s decision': Van Aquarium president

The president and CEO of the Vancouver Aquarium says he is disappointed with the Vancouver Park Board for putting a halt on cetacean breeding, calling it a politically motivated decision.

Dr. John Nightingale says he feels “like a failure” in a sense that commissioners did not seem to grasp the connection between the work the aquarium does and what is happening in the wild.

“I thought we made a pretty compelling connection between the work that needs to be done in the field and the work that has to happen with animals in our care,” says Nightingale. “I thought we were quite clear that the research so necessary for the conservation of these species takes both.”

Nightingale says there was a degree of naiveté involved in the board’s decision because none of the commissioners are whale experts.

“None of them has ever taken care of a cetacean a day in their life,” he says.


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Nightingale says the aquarium does not operate a formal breeding program and keeps its animals in groups to mimic a natural environment.

“Healthy animals sometimes mate. So keeping them apart or using artificial contraceptives or whatever the method the park board is going to mandate is not natural. So it is actually kind of animal cruelty.”

Nightingale calls it a politically motivated decision that would not have been brought up had there not been a looming municipal election in November.

“It panders to the activists and their strategy of incrementally working to shut down cetaceans and eventually the aquarium,” he argues.

But Vancouver Park Board Chair Aaron Jasper says the board has done the right thing.

“Every time we came back to the breeding program, we felt that it is a program that might serve other purposes, but we were not convinced that it served the purposes of conservation, rescue, rehabilitation or research. That is where we drew a line in the sand,” says Jasper.

But overall, Jasper feels, they have struck the right balance.

“I’m sure there any many folks who think we didn’t go far enough. I am sure there are many folks who think we have gone too far,” he says. “That’s really what we’ve been trying to strive was to find that balance.”

WATCH: Park Board keeps cetacean program, bans most breeding

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