The future of the Vancouver Aquarium’s cetacean program depends on the wording of amendments to a bylaw that the Vancouver Park Board will vote on next Monday.
“The bylaw change talks about no more cetaceans that would be brought into the Vancouver Aquarium and that the current cetaceans would be grandfathered in,” Vancouver Park Board Chair Mark Wiebe said.
That means Chester, Helen and Daisy — rescued cetaceans that can’t be released into the wild — can stay. But future rescued whales, dolphins, and porpoises may no longer come to the aquarium.
“We couldn’t believe that commissioners in Vancouver would turn their backs on animals who need help and that’s exactly what they’ve done,” Vancouver Aquarium CEO John Nightingale said.
The aquarium is concerned the Department of Fisheries and Oceans may not rescue injured cetaceans if there is no place for them to go.
“You rescue harbour seals, go ahead and do that, but no, no you’ve got to leave cetaceans to die a death on the beach or have a federal officer put a bullet in them,” Nightingale said.
Wiebe said there are alternatives.
“If they are deemed unreleasable, they would either go to a different facility or they’d go to a sea pen or they would stay at the marine mammal centre down at Crab Park,” he said.
Nightingale argues that making injured cetaceans someone else’s responsibility is problematic since there are no other facilities in Canada that could take them.
As for keeping them at the marine mammal centre, it’s a small hospital facility that doesn’t have room to permanently house a marine mammal.
Wiebe said keeping the cetaceans in sea pens would be paid for by either DFO or the aquarium.
The Vancouver Aquarium will hold a rally at Ceperly Park in Stanley Park at 6:30 p.m. Monday, just ahead of the park board’s vote.
— With files from Linda Aylesworth