VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – Two Vancouver Park Board Commissioners are hoping the Vancouver Aquarium will get rid of their whale and dolphin enclosures. The move comes as the city reviews a bylaw over keeping the cetaceans at the aquarium.
Commissioner Sarah Blyth says the issue has been going back and forth at the Park Board for over 20 years now, but lately, more people have been writing and emailing the board asking whether keeping the large mammals in captivity is humane. That got the attention of Blyth and fellow Commissioner Constance Barnes.
Now, the board is looking at how to move forward. “Should we do a referendum? People have been talking about whether whales should be in captivity or not. We’re getting more and more letters from the public,” says Blyth. A referendum for November would have to be decided on by next month.
Blyth says that’s not necessarily the way they want to deal with things. “Ideally we would work with the aquarium to figure out a way to figure out a way to address the concerns of the public. At the end of the day, we have to address public concerns on this issue.”
Part of those concerns emerged with the documentary Blackfish looking at the captivity of Killer Whale Tilikum, who at one time lived at Sealand of the Pacific near Victoria. Tilikum has been involved in the deaths of three people, including one trainer on Vancouver Island.
“Folks believe the time is over for having cetaceans in captivity based on the face they are intelligent beings that live in the wild and need a lot of space to swim around. They live in family packs and communicate with each other. A lot of information you see in Blackfish about how they have large brains and are very emotional animals… the more information we see, we see that they need to be in the wild,” says Blyth.
According to Blyth, the Aquarium does amazing rescue and conservation work while educating the public for years on marine biology. But she says there are other examples of successful aquariums that don’t have whales.
Representatives of the Vancouver Aquarium didn’t respond to calls for comment Saturday afternoon.