Protesters opposed to whales and dolphins being kept in captivity held signs and yelled “don’t buy tickets” to others as they walked through the doors of the Vancouver Aquarium Saturday.
Listing off cetaceans who have died while in captivity over the years – including at B.C.’s only aquarium – the group had one message: Empty the tanks.
The protest in Vancouver was part of a world-wide day of action. Activists across 60 other cities held similar demonstrations.
Following controversy surrounding a Vancouver Parks board bylaw introduced last year to ban cetaceans at the aquarium, its CEO John Nightingale announced in January the facility would be phasing out the display of captive whales and dolphins.
OceanWise is set to continue its Marine Mammal Rescue program, with some of the rescued animals being kept at its off-site rescue facility, also in Vancouver.
Animal rights groups in the region have a problem with this, they’ve said.
“The aquarium industry knows that cetacean captivity is not supported so they are going to try to re brand it as saving ‘rescued’ cetaceans,” said Peter Hamilton, Life Force Society founder, in a news release Saturday.
In an emailed statement to Black Press Media, the Vancouver Aquarium said there are no plans to build a new exhibit for rescued cetaceans at the Stanley Park site, adding that the commitment made in January is firm.
The aquarium said its permitted by Fisheries and Oceans Canada to operate its rescue centre.
“As the only Marine Mammal Rescue Centre in Canada with veterinarians trained to help whales, dolphins and porpoises, the team considers it their duty. Animal welfare and conservation — saving individual animals and working to save species — are both core to our mission.”
Currently, Helen the Pacific white-sided dolphin is the only cetacean still at the Vancouver Aquarium.
Meanwhile, construction of the Canadian arctic exhibit is underway, which will home sea lions and walruses.