Unanimous decision united politicians across party lines voting for ‘public will’
Victory! On March 9, 2017, the Vancouver park board voted that dolphins, beluga whales, and other cetaceans will no longer be allowed to be held in captivity for entertainment or research purposes.
The decision, which followed two days of special hearings, was announced on the heels of the Vancouver aquarium declaring that it would feature up to five beluga whales in a multi-million dollar expansion exhibit.
The aquarium also outlined plans to phase out cetacean displays by 2029.
Over fifty presentations, for and against the ban, were heard. According to Vancouver Courier, one commissioner stated that the death of two beluga whales, Aurora and her adult cafe Qila, was the “tipping-point” in terms of needing to address the injustice being done to wildlife in captivity.
Though there was divided support expressed in the viewing audience, it was ultimately decided that there wasn’t enough evidence showing that handlers could provide proper care for the sea mammals. In effect, the ban was passed. The Vancouver park board is comprised of seven elected representatives.
Reportedly, the initiative’s passing was a surprise to many who were present. Green commissioner Stuart Mackinnon told the press:
“We have a group of commissioners here who are caring, compassionate, smart, and do their homework. We don’t always agree […] so did it surprise me that it was unanimous? Absolutely.”
According to the Born Free Foundation, more than 2,100 dolphins and whales are presently being held in captivity at 343 facilities around the world.
The highest numbers of dolphinariums are located in Japan, China, the United States, and Mexico. By raising awareness about the necessity for “highly intelligent and emotional creatures” to live freely in the wild, similar initiatives such as the one passed in Vancouver might take place.