Vancouver Aquarium ‘not ready to give up the fight’ following bylaw vote
The Vancouver Park Board voted in favour of a bylaw last night that will prevent whales, dolphins and porpoises from being kept in captivity.
The ban goes into effect immediately but the Vancouver Aquarium says it is not ready to give up the fight.
“I think that, one of the things I’ve said for the last couple of days, is that politicians are normally driven by public opinion,” Dr. John Nightingale, president and CEO of the Vancouver Aquarium said.
He added he is not ruling out a possible lawsuit in a last effort to have the ban overturned.
The Vancouver Aquarium has said the new bylaw would amount to a death sentence for whales, dolphins and porpoises in need of rescue. The aquarium is concerned the Department of Fisheries and Oceans may not rescue injured cetaceans if there is no place for them to go.
Six of seven Vancouver Park Board commissioners voted to pass the bylaw on Monday night. Vice-chair Erin Shum was the only board member to vote against it.
Commissioner Stuart Mackinnon said this move simply means the cetaceans cannot be brought to the facility in Stanley Park, but the aquarium can still treat the animals at its rescue centre, which is not located on park board property.
“The choice of whether the marine mammal rescue centre continues to work with cetaceans is entirely their own,” he said.
A previous version of the bylaw limited which cetaceans the aquarium could acquire to those injured or in need of rehabilitation that could not be released back into the wild after treatment.
“In this case, public opinion is squarely on the side of continuing to rescue marine mammals,” said Nightingale on Tuesday.
The new bylaw prevents the Vancouver Aquarium from bringing new cetaceans to its facility in Stanley Park, but three cetaceans currently housed there will be allowed to stay. They cannot be used in any shows however.
Hundreds of people rallied in support of the aquarium and the park board last night. When the bylaw was carried, a cheer went up from those in the room.
In February 2016, Business in Vancouver compiled a list of Metro Vancouver attractions, which were ranked according to the number of visitors. Sitting at second spot, behind Grouse Mountain, is the Vancouver Aquarium — followed by the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park, the Richmond Olympic Oval and in the number five spot, Science World.
Just steps away from the Vancouver Aquarium sits an enclosure that was the site of a similar controversy a few decades ago. For years there was a zoo in Stanley Park. The last animal held there, a polar bear named Tuk, died in 1997 and the zoo closed forever.
FROM THE ARCHIVES: Tuk is dead. The 37-year-old polar bear was the last animal exhibit at the Stanley Park Zoo, which started its phase out in 1993.
Now many are wondering what the future of the Vancouver Aquarium will look like. Nightingale isn’t ruling out a complete move out of the park.
“It would be great to be out from under the thumb of the park board, who responds not to the general public, but to a local group of local activists,” he said.
— With files from Jon Azpiri
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