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Discussion about whales in captivity continues at Vancouver Park Board

Last Updated Mar 9, 2017 at 6:07 am PDT

(Courtesy Vancouver Aquarium)

Under the aquarium’s plan, cetaceans would return for about 10 years after a major facilities expansion in 2018

A plebiscite decision at a Park Board meeting last month was pushed aside to ask staff for more recommendations

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – The Vancouver Park Board is heading for another night of discussion on the future of keeping cetaceans at the Vancouver Aquarium after a packed special meeting.

Commissioners are considering four staff recommendations:

    • Add a plebiscite to the 2018 municipal election.
    • Accept the aquarium’s plan for a 2029 cetacean phase-out after an expansion project that would house cetaceans for 10 years.
    • Consider a bylaw banning cetaceans.
    • Keep everything as is.


A contingent of Vancouver Aquarium representatives kicked off a 64 speaker list Wednesday night.

Commissioners questioned the merits of keeping cetaceans for research and revenue building and delved deeper into the deaths of two beluga whales in 2016.

John Nightingale, president and CEO of the Vancouver Aquarium, says an investigation into the deaths is still underway.

“The whales have been researched six ways to Sunday. While we don’t know exactly what killed them, we know a whole bunch of things that didn’t kill them.”

He says it was likely not a disease but a toxin, possibly in the water or other operations.

“Any new whales that come back would go into an entirely new state-of-the-art exhibit, with new life support filtration and treatment systems. Or it was human poisoning, and sabotage.”

Aquarium representatives said over the last few months there has been a 12 to 14 per cent drop in attendance at the major local tourism facility. The whale deaths, as well as an unusually harsh winter, were offered as possible reasons.

Nightingale says without cetaceans, “the aquarium will survive, but it will no longer be a leading facility; It will diminish.”

The Vancouver Aquarium representatives indicated they have five belugas at various facilities right now that would have to find homes or be euthanized if cetaceans are banned.

“The goal is always to put them back in the wild. When that can’t happen, they come to this facility to live out their lives.”

The park board will meet again this evening at 6 p.m. to hear from the remaining speakers on the issue.