November 29, 2016 12:00 am
Updated: November 29, 2016 4:07 am

Park board mulls plebiscite on whales in captivity following deaths of Vancouver Aquarium belugas

WATCH: The deaths of Qila and Aurora have prompted the Vancouver Park Board to reconsider keeping whales in captivity. Catherine Urquhart reports.


The deaths of two beluga whales at the Vancouver Aquarium have now come with political ramifications.

Animal welfare groups have responded to news of the deaths of Qila and Aurora saying it’s time the practice of keeping marine mammals in captivity is reviewed.

Vancouver Park Board Chair Sarah Kirby-Yung introduced a motion about the future of captive cetaceans at Monday night’s park board meeting.

WATCH: Vancouver Park Board to consider ban on captive cetaceans

“I’m bringing forward a notice of motion… to include a question on the 2018 municipal ballot about whether or not Vancouverites support having cetaceans at the Vancouver Aquarium,” she said ahead of Monday night’s meeting.

“We have to give the aquarium time to process what’s happened and they’re going to have to take stock about how this impacts their future plans. It’s a process. It’s a conversation that should happen. That’s part of democracy. It’s really helpful for park board commissioners to hear what the public thinks.”

WATCH: Beluga whale deaths

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“It was news to us despite the courtesy of letting the park board know everything we do,” Dr. John Nightengale of the Vancouver Aquarium said of the motion. “But we don’t run the park board, they do. Our first goal is to find out what happened so that we can plot out a future course for our collection, our displays and our whole organization.

This isn’t the first time there has been talk of banning captive cetaceans. A Vancouver city councillor tried to get a plebiscite on the ballot for the 2014 civic election, but council rejected it saying it was a park board issue.

The motion will next be discussed in early 2017.

– With files from Aaron McArthur and The Canadian Press

© 2016 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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