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Special Park Board meeting tonight to discuss whales in captivity

Last Updated Mar 8, 2017 at 8:18 am PDT

(Courtesy Vancouver Aquarium)

Several potential options as Park Board looks at future of whales in captivity

Dozens sign up to speak at special meeting looking at whales in captivity in Vancouver

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – The future of whales and other cetaceans at the Vancouver Aquarium will be up for debate at a special Park Board meeting this evening.

One of the outcomes could see the board adopting the recommendation from the Aquarium late last month that would see beluga whales return next year or in early 2019 with the exhibit ending by 2029.

Another potential result would see adding a plebiscite onto next year’s municipal election, which the city would have to allow.

But that’s tricky says Board Chair Michael Wiebe, noting there’s an existing lawsuit between the Vancouver Park and Vancouver Aquarium. “If they build a brand new facility and then, in-turn, change our mind and say, ‘No, you’re not allowed to have cetaceans anymore.’ But they already have a brand new facility, then we might be liable. And that is why this is a key time when Park Board commissioners can make a decision about what we want to do going forward.”

Wiebe says holding a plebiscite on the issue would be difficult. “If we don’t make a decision before the expansion happens — if an expansion happens — and the plebiscite is asked for on the 2018 ballot, we can be in trouble. And that’s why there is a current lawsuit between the Aquarium and the Park Board, because we might be liable for some of the costs.”

Changing the existing bylaw or maintaining status quo are the other two options.

The last two belugas at the facility died just nine days apart back in November and there is still no definitive cause for their deaths. The Vancouver Aquarium has several belugas out on loan to other aquariums.