The federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) predicts that the Vancouver Park Board’s ban on cetaceans at the Vancouver Aquarium could have potentially tragic consequences.
The department says a complete cetacean ban will take away the option to rescue and rehabilitate injured animals, like Chester, the false killer whale who was saved after being stranded on a Tofino beach.
Fisheries and Oceans decided that Chester, and fellow cetacean, the harbour porpoise named Daisy, could be not be released back into the wild, but the aquarium had the capacity to give them a home.
“We are the only place in Canada that has the capability of responding to a live stranded cetacean, bring them into a facility, and successful rehabilitate those animals,” said Dr. Martin Haulena, a veterinarian at the aquarium.
But the Vancouver Park Board changed all that when it unanimously voted to end cetacean captivity at the aquarium earlier this month.
Now, when Fisheries and Oceans discovers an injured cetacean, there will be nowhere for them to go if they cannot be released.
“If that is not an option, because of a ban on cetaceans at the aquarium, then the DFO would have to look at alternatives such as euthanasia,” said the DFO’s Dr. John Ford.
Depending on the final wording of the park board bylaw, there may be no more second chances for B.C. cetaceans in distress as of this May.
If it wasn’t for the aquarium, a rescue animal like Chester would have likely been euthanized, Ford said.
“I can’t honestly believe that this is what people want,” Haulena said.
The motion to ban cetaceans has a long history in Vancouver, but was brought up again shortly after the aquarium’s two remaining belugas died suddenly in November.
Since their deaths, the park board said ongoing protests were being held at board meetings and at the Vancouver Aquarium. Multiple online petitions against captivity and email campaigns targeting elected Park Board and City officials also surfaced.