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Mixed feelings on captivity of cetaceans at Vancouver Aquarium in part 2 of public debate

VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – Dozens of people shared their thoughts on whales and dolphins in captivity at the Vancouver Aquarium Monday night. It was a packed house at part two of the special Vancouver Park Board meeting.

Protestors holding signs reading things like “Life in a tank is no life at all” were chanting, “There’s never an excuse for animal abuse!” before the actual meeting got underway.

Many people showed up with strong opinions.

“How many whales and dolphins are too many to be sacrificed for entertainment and profit…not even one sacrifice is justified. Stop the abuse! Stop the shows!” said one speaker opposed to cetaceans in captivity.

There were many folks in favor of keeping the mammals in their pools; some of them were staff members at the aquarium.

“Please vote to keep cetaceans at the aquarium so that these amazing animals can continue to be ambassadors for their species,” urged an aquarium employee.

Some people urged the Park Board to consider a referendum in order to get all taxpayers involved in the decision making.

“For over a decade this issue has divided our community and it needs to be settled for once and for all, take it to a referendum.” said another speaker.

Some people scheduled to have their say didn’t show up, frustrated after others had to wait eight hours for their three minutes at Saturday’s meeting.

Walt Judas with Tourism Vancouver spoke on behalf of the local tourism body. He expressed his strong support for cetaceans, as he explains it brings in a lot of travelers to the city.

“Our meeting planner and tour operator clients view the aquarium as one of the top venues and experiences for their clients and delegates respectively. Aquarium passes are among the top three attractions products sold at Tourism Vancouver’s visitor center downtown… annually drawing hundreds of thousands of out of town visitors. Combined with Stanley Park, the aquarium is one of the reasons visitors decide to spend more time in the city, ultimately benefiting businesses and the community alike.”

Park Board Commissioner Sarah Blyth says everyone who wanted to speak got the chance and now it’s time for the board to consider what they’ve heard. “On Thursday we are going to reconvene our meeting and at that point we’re going to spend some time going over all of the details of the meeting and then we will discuss what the plan is for the future.”

But we are still quite far off from a final decision on the issue. Blyth says the board will will meet again on Thursday.

“We are going to take all the petitions and signatures and letters and we are going to deliberate and meet over the next couple of days.  We are going to try and do what we feel is the best for Vancouver and Stanley Park and the best thing for the whales,” she tells us.

There are two beluga whales and two Pacific white-sided dolphins in captivity. A multi-million-dollar tank expansion project is planned for the Vancouver Aquarium.

Many speakers say they want to see a referendum on the issue.