Whale ban could mean ‘life or death’ for Vancouver Aquarium

by Tom Anstey | 17 Jun 2014

Amid recent controversy over housing whales and dolphins in aquarium settings, Vancouver Aquarium’s CEO John Nightingale has said that the restriction of such animals would “destroy research” and become a “life-and-death” matter for the aquarium’s continued existence.

The aquarium recently completed the first phase of a CA$120m (US$110m, €81.5m, £65.1m) expansion, with a number of protesters on-hand at the ribbon cutting ceremony for the 55,000sq ft (5,109sq m) expansion.

The expansion includes galleries and a new courtyard, with plans for further development in late 2015 – including larger whale and dolphin tanks.

An unscheduled review of the aquarium’s current whale-keeping scheme was ordered by the city, with the report due in late July.

The aquarium is concerned that the city may bring in new restrictions just as they dissolve for the November municipal election, similar to discussions taking place in California.

“Depending on what the park board does, the aquarium could be fighting for its life,” said Nightingale. “We think it is very serious. We think that given six of the seven park board commissioners are not running for re-election, it is entirely possible that this park board, as it walks out the door, could do something dramatic that would have a significantly negative effect on the aquarium’s future.”

Aquariums keeping whales and dolphins have come under immense pressure since the release of the documentary Blackfish, which recounts the death of a SeaWorld trainer by a killer whale alleged to have been driven mad by being kept in captivity.

SeaWorld has denied the documentary’s allegations, calling them “grossly one-sided”, while Baltimore’s National Aquarium is considering retiring its domesticated dolphins to a one-of-a-kind sanctuary.

Nightingale said the institution has strong positive views about whale research and its educational value, but animal activists continue to say that retaining whales and dolphins in captivity is cruel.

Vancouver Aquarium also operates a world-renowned marine mammal rescue group and is the only aquarium in Canada allowed to keep cetaceans that are too injured to be returned to the wild.

Related stories

US National Aquarium considers retiring dolphins to one-of-a-kind sanctuary

SeaWorld takes another hit as STA removes it from its travel database

Proposed legislation would ban Orca shows in California

SeaWorld trainer dies after killer whale attack

Amid recent controversy over housing whales and dolphins in aquarium settings, Vancouver Aquarium’s CEO John Nightingale has said that the restriction of such animals would “destroy research” and become a “life-and-death” matter for the aquarium’s continued existence. The aquarium recently completed the first phase of a CA$120m (US$110m, €81.5m, £65.1m) expansion, with a number of protesters on-hand at the ribbon cutting ceremony for the 55,000sq ft (5,109sq m) expansion. The
Vancouver Aquarium is under pressure as a result of its whales in captivity / Wikipedia
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