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Vancouver Park Board pleased, aquarium worried about proposed federal law banning cetaceans in captivity

FILE: A young girl takes pictures of a beluga whale at the Vancouver Aquarium in Vancouver, B.C., Saturday, Dec. 27, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Proposed law would ban keeping and breeding whales, dolphins, along with their sperm and embryos

Vancouver Aquarium worries law will add another layer of bureaucracy to rescue operations

Vancouver Park Board says this is a win for animal rights

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – A proposed law to ban whales and dolphins in captivity is getting both praise and condemnation. The Senate passed its bill this week, much to the joy of Vancouver’s Park Board and dismay of the Vancouver Aquarium.

The proposed law, which was introduced in the Senate in 2015, would ban keeping and breeding cetaceans along with their sperm and embryos.

The Vancouver Aquarium would still be able to keep its lone cetacean — Helen, the pacific white-sided dolphin — and continue to save injured animals, but it worries the law will add another layer of bureaucracy to rescue operations.

A statement from the Aquarium says the bill “provides an unworkable regulatory framework for the timely transfer of a rescued cetacean, should it be required.” (full statement below)

RELATED: Vancouver Aquarium to no longer house whales, dolphins

But Stuart McKinnon with the Park Board calls it a win for animal rights.

“I don’t see the need to have large mammals in captivities — in zoos and aquariums. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t share the understanding of their desire for conservation and education,” he said.

He feels there are better ways to teach people about aquatic life and conservation.

“We’ve moved into the 21st century….There are other ways that we can educate and do conservation outside of keeping these large aquatic mammals in captivity,” he added.

The bill, which already has support from multiple parties, must now go through the House of Commons.

Under the proposed law, those violating it could face fines up to $200,000.

Full statement from the Vancouver Aquarium:

While Tuesday’s passing of Bill S203 at the Senate is a preliminary step, we are disappointed by the outcome. As amended, the Bill provides an unworkable regulatory framework for the timely transfer of a rescued cetacean, should it be required. Vancouver Aquarium operates the only not-for-profit Marine Mammal Rescue Centre in Canada and the Bill impedes on the ability of our first responders to save sick, injured or stranded cetaceans when needed and impedes our ability to work with others (to rescue and rehabilitate) quickly and effectively. The Bill would also limit field research done by everyone, including government scientists, with a functionally unworkable permit system for the transportation of tissues or blood necessary for scientific analysis.

– With files from Denise Wong