An Open Letter by Dr. John Nightingale, Vancouver Aquarium president & CEO

Regardless of the species, reproduction is the most fundamental law of nature. It’s inside all of us, and it’s there for a good reason. Inside the DNA of every living thing is the basic need to reproduce and carry on. Consequently, the decision by the Vancouver Park Board to prohibit the breeding of cetaceans at the Vancouver Aquarium is misinformed, misguided and pits the Park Board against the facts, the science and Mother Nature herself.

The Park Board’s use of the word breeding implies that we carry out some sort of planned, regulated or artificial reproduction program. We don’t do that at the Vancouver Aquarium. Our animals do mate, just as they do in the wild, because we keep them in natural groupings – just as they live in nature. Mating is the most natural thing in the world. In fact, sex and reproduction play an important role in our research and in our education programs. For the Park Board to stop whales and dolphins from doing what comes naturally is like telling Park Board commissioners not to have sex, ever. It’s unnatural.

The political decision made by the Park Board was not based on the facts or science presented. It certainly didn’t take into consideration testimony from dozens of the world’s scientific community, including experts in animal welfare and animal cognition. It also wasn’t based on the support the Aquarium receives from its 75,000 members, 1,500 conservation staff and volunteers, or one million visitors each year. And it doesn’t reflect the sentiment of Vancouver residents, as shown by our polling which indicates broad public support for Vancouver Aquarium. It was a decision based on a relative handful of activists who want to close, over time, Vancouver’s 58-year-old, award-winning marine science centre.

Canada’s beluga whales are facing some pretty tough times. Changes in climate, increased marine pollution, and many other human-based problems put cetaceans and our country’s oceans at risk. The handful of belugas at the Aquarium is vital to our research efforts in helping us understand and help save Canada’s wild beluga population. The Park Board decision now puts our research, our international reputation, and Canada’s belugas at serious risk over the medium and longer term.

The Vancouver Aquarium will need to take some time to determine the real consequences and options open to us in light of the Park Board decision.

We sincerely hoped that the Park Board would join us, and the thousands of Vancouverites and residents of the lower mainland, who support our efforts to protect and help save Canada’s belugas. That turns out not to be the case. Instead, the current Vancouver Park Board, most of whom are not running again, and can’t be held accountable at the upcoming municipal election, have decided that their legacy is to pick a fight with Mother Nature.

76 Responses

  1. Vancouver Aquarium

    As noted earlier, there is no formal breeding program. In the article you quoted, Mr. Wright talked about bringing back one of our beluga whales who was relocated ahead of construction. When that male beluga returns, he will likely be placed in a mixed sex group. Mating may occur and, if nature allows it, reproduction may also take place. This is considered considered breeding and it is naturally occurring. Belugas are not forced to breed.

    Reply
  2. Tanuj

    If u want to do some good then ban fishing and all throwing of garbage/ waste in seas. We don’t require to understand these beautiful creatures. The only thing we require is to educate humans how to stops being wasteful be responsible for their actions and stop interfering into everything. Let these amazing spiritual creatures live peacefully. We humans are destroying and keep on destroying everything in whatever words we want to describe but the only truth is
    ALL ANIMALS WANT IS A BIG SANCTUARY FROM HUMANS. KEEP HUMANS AWAY.

    Reply
  3. Laura Watson

    The aquarium has shown high range of diversity in what they stand for and what matters. Through mammal rehab, husbandry, science, teaching, giving students support, greening their facility and much much more.
    Those a who protest are not looking at whole picture. The aquarium is always trying to better themselves and be as environmental friendly and have all the animals best interests at heart.
    These protesters themselves better live environmentally sound in every way.

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  4. Michael Russo

    The comments with analogies alluding to cats and dogs are useless: Cats and dogs are not endangered species.

    The comments regarding possible lack of ethical behavior in the means of keeping marine mammals in captivity have been answered: Only those whom the team does not feel confident will survive in the wild are kept on at the VA or any other marine rescue as permanent residents. Other commercial places, like Sea World, or whatever, I have no idea what their policies are, but the VA’s are listed openly here.

    His comments about not having a formal breeding program are not disqualified because of the open letter. People find it typically uncomfortable being placed only in the company of their own gender for long periods of time, regardless of sexual orientation. We mix because we are social and mixing is what has allowed us to take over the world so thoroughly. The only thing they do is insure siblings don’t make babies. Isn’t incest in humans also illegal and thought of as taboo?

    I’ve scanned this whole page and seen no negative comment that cannot be shown to be irrational or fallacious in nature.

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  5. Jan Lander

    Sure hope the Parks Board, now that they have more information realize the insult they have put on the Vancouver Aquarium with their conditions. Monitoring, ridiculous and costs for experts, that already do that makes no sense. Science and politics do not mix when it comes to the welfare and care of the cetaceans. I wonder if the Parks Board consulted with marine scientists before coming up with their conditions. My worry is having political parties making these decisions. It is putting our World Class Aquarium at the whim of who is in office.

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  6. Arlene

    I guess the aquarium has no choice but to institute a spay and neuter program for the whales and dolphins. Sound dumb? Of course it’s dumb….just like the parks board.

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  7. Dr. Dorothy Young

    I agree 100% with Dr. Nightingale and have written two letters to the Parks Board in support of Vanaqua. I have whole heartedly supported the Vancouver Aquarium for a number of years. This prairie person (Manitoba) visits the Aquarium whenever She is in Vancouver and will continue to do so.

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  8. kate

    I don’t understand how the parks board has authority over VA activities. Is it written into the land use or lease? Wild animal management is a provincial and federal responsibility. Could the province declare the VA a wildlife conservation area (might even be done by regulation or ministerial order) to correct the idiocy of the parks board?

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  9. Jane Garsson

    This is an example of a very successful “green” Marine Mammal Eco-tour Non-Profit, that has helped educate and support conservation and research of our Oceans, and all sea life, for many years in Maui. It is possible to do this in Vancouver too!

    pacificwhale.org

    Reply
  10. Jane Garsson

    The VA is supposed to be a Non-Profit Conservation and Education Org.
    Funding for scientific research is not solely from tourism as you would say.
    The business model for SeaWorld is a for-profit business, and uses a fraction of their annual muti millions of profits from their Theme Parks to support real Conservation, Research and Marine Science Education.
    If the VA were to promote Educational Marine Mammal boat tours, around the Vancouver Bay Area, they could use the profits to further their Conservation efforts, and be less dependent on their captive cetacean programs!

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  11. Peter Ritchie

    Thank you Dr. John Nightingale, and thank you Vancouver Aquarium staff and rescue operators for continuing to be one of the best facilities in the world.

    I hope there can be positives that come from this terrible decision, perhaps that the such an important facility should not be under the mandate of a regional parks board.

    Reply
  12. Martha Brock

    The fight was picked with Mother Nature when we took dolphins and whales into captivity. This truce, to end the captive breeding program, is the least we can do. Kudos to the Park Board.

    Reply
    • Martha Brock

      Rescue, rehabilitation and, everywhere possible, release is typically not confused with having marine mammals for display purposes. I am surprised that you asked the question.

      Reply
    • Marcus W

      That is exactly what they do. Rescue, rehabilitation, release — whether a rescue is to be attempted, and whether, ultimately, the animal is to be released, is up to Fisheries and Oceans Canada, a federal government agency. Not all animals can be release though, and if Fisheries and Oceans makes that decision, these animals are given to an accredited facility that can give them the best possible care.

      The last cetacean to be rescued and subsequently released was Levi, a male harbour porpoise, in 2013.

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    • AB

      Martha: You’re second sentence is the beginning of your lack of knowledge of the Aquarium’s purpose… There is NO captive breeding program!!!!!!!
      Do you really know what you are talking about…NOOOOO!
      I don’t live in greater Vancouver,any longer, and can’t vote there.. but I wish people from other boroughs could have voted… because it’s not ONLY that population that visits the Aquarium.. I fully support Dr. Nightingale’s view, and have been a staunch supporter since I moved here in 1979! The parks board should not have control of the Aquarium.. the province should..

      Reply
  13. Steve

    How is it possible to confirm that a extremley well established Marine mammal park which confirms to all ethics, standards and guidelines have been told that reproduction will be a thing of the past.
    Like Dr. Nightingale said, it is natural instinct and behaviour for these animals.
    Take that away and the animals will become frustrated.
    Like a few people have already stated, these parks have a function to teach and inspire the community as to what wonderful creatures swim around in the living seas, help their cause, promote awareness and possibly save some lives……

    I hope that this decision will be overturned so all the dedicated marine mammal staff can continue their great work….. Otherwise, in several years there will be no Vancouver Aquarium…..

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  14. Jason wilson

    I support the vancouver aquarium!!!!! I say the park board has no business telling the aquarium how to operate.

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  15. Ted

    This argument is nonsense. It is clear that for pragmatic reasons many other animals including pet dogs are prevented from reproducing as “nature” intended. Why is the aquarium any different?

    For all most animals, keeping members of the opposite sex in the same area, feeding them, and allowing reproduction is called “breeding”. Nature didn’t intend Belugas to live in cages smaller than a Bachelor apartment. Is eve more unnatural for Belugas to give birth in such artificial spaces.

    Reply
    • Vancouver Aquarium

      We appreciate your viewpoint, Ted. We agree that an aquarium is not the same environment as the ocean. They are vastly different. That said, the belugas at the Aquarium receive exceptional care and they should be allowed to interact in mixed sex groups as they do in nature. Sometimes, those interactions lead to mating, which may result in reproduction — both of which are healthy, natural events.

      Reply
  16. Daniel

    As a flamboyantly homosexual man, I am on the Aquarium’s side on this one.

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  17. Sheryl Spencer

    So, a community activist, a Youth Outreach Worker, a Real Estate Agent, a ‘successful entrepreneur’, and a Lawyer are going to challenge the world renowned scientific experts and pretend they know what is best for the Vancouver Aquarium. Give me strength…
    The Park Board should be ashamed.

    Reply
    • Vancouver Aquarium

      Hi Josh — We do not have a formal “breeding” program as the Park Board has suggested. When possible, we do keep our cetaceans in mixed sex groups. When cetaceans are of age, they sometimes mate, which may result in reproduction. The top accredited institutions across North America work together with the Association of Zoos and Aquarium’s (AZA) Marine Mammal Taxon Advisory Group to manage the genetic diversity of beluga whales in human care with the primary goal of maintaining genetic diversity (preventing inbreeding). Hope that helps to clarify.

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    • Nikki Pearson

      I’m pleased to hear then that this should curb any cetaceans being born into captivity.

      Reply
    • Josh

      Sorry If I wasn’t clear there. What I was asking is why did the Vancouver Aquarium refer to its responsible breeding program up until the parks board decision and now it says that there is one. I linked to a reference above but it seems like there are lots of other references to it in the past (I don’t really want to link to all of them here). Did you used to have a breeding program? Was it recently cancelled or something?

      Reply
      • Vancouver Aquarium

        We understand that it is confusing. Healthy animals will mate; this is a natural process that sometimes leads to reproduction. This is what we mean when we refer to our responsible breeding program (it’s naturally occurring). The way the Park Board is using the word “breeding” is different than what is practiced at the Aquarium.

  18. Lynn

    Maybe the Vancouver Aquarium should be talking to the City’s of Surrey or Richmond to see if they would like to have an Aquarium which would mean that the Vancouver Parks Board will lose a lot of revenue.

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  19. Sofia

    I support Vancouver Aquarium 100% and have sent a letter to the park board. They should not only listen to the ‘so called’ protesters. They went too far. I want the aquarium to keep the whales, dolphins and belugas to educate our kids and do the research. My daughter had attended the aquarium’s summer camp and have visited aquarium many times. Thank you, Vancouver Aquarium!

    Reply
  20. Linda Weston

    The Van. P.B. decision is confusing and ignorant of all the facts presented. How is it possible to apply the decree? It is far more cruel to consider the options of following the no plan. (Edited)

    Reply
  21. Jane Garsson

    I disagree with your logic. Any Beluga Whales that were be born into captivity, would be considered part of the VA captive breeding program. I am very pleased that this unethical practice has been banned from the VA by the Park Board’s important decision!
    Any association with SeaWorld is unfortunate; and as more and more people become educated and outraged by Marine Parks keeping highly intelligent, and socially evolved cetaceans in tanks; this outdated and unethical practice will be banned as well.
    It is now time to appreciate and fully understand all cetaceans, by viewing them in their natural, wild habitats–the ocean!

    Reply
    • Vancouver Aquarium

      Hi Jane — We operate the only Marine Mammal Rescue Centre in Canada and sometimes stranded cetaceans are rescued at a neonatal age, which makes them babies dependent wholly on their mothers for survival. These cetaceans would not be viable candidates for release back into the wild, such as Jack and Daisy, two harbour porpoises that receive a caring home at Vancouver Aquarium. It was only by working with Jack and Daisy and learning were we able to also rescue, rehabilitate and release Levi last year — the first harbour porpoise in Canada to be reintroduced back into the wild after many months of around-the-clock care. We also have a commitment to no wild capture which we made in 1996. All cetaceans in our care are non-releasable marine mammals and if they interact, mate and reproduce, that is a healthy and natural occurrence.

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  22. mrsball

    I’d hate to see Jack and Daisy separated, they’re my favourites! Plus, all they’ve got is each other. I’ve got a great picture of them and my 1-year old checking each other out 🙂 But correct me if I’m wrong, as I understand it, the park board didn’t say anything stopping the animals from having sex, just about stopping them from having babies. The babies born at the aquarium don’t really seem to do very well, anyway. I remember all three orca babies dying, 4 beluga babies have dies, and there’s never been a successful dolphin birth despite several pregnancies. Personally, I think it’s better to give them “unnatural” contraception than it is to let them get pregnant and have them suffer unexpected health complications from pregnancy, stillbirth, or premature death of their offspring. If the captive marine mammal community to which VanAqua belongs can figure out a way to artificially inseminate, then surely they can figure out contraception.

    Reply
    • Vancouver Aquarium

      Hi there — We have tried some contraceptives with certain species, such as sea otters, although the otters we currently have are not using any. Unfortunately, even some of the new GnRH agonist implants have been associated with reproductive disorders such as pyometra and endometrial hyperplasia in sea otters. These have resulted in serious disease and have required complicated surgery to resolve. Complex open abdominal surgery in cetaceans has been performed only a very, very small number of times. It has been successful in even fewer. At this time, cetacean anesthesia and surgery are considered extremely high risk techniques. Although we have helped pioneer anesthetic and surgical techniques in seals and sea lions, these are not available in cetaceans as yet, though we hope to advance the field in the next decades.

      Contraceptives have been somewhat evaluated in bottlenose dolphins though only in a small number. They are very poorly evaluated in other species and, to our knowledge, only some older types have been used at all in belugas and none have been given to harbour porpoises. At this time, the risks associated with contraceptive use in the animals we have far outweigh any potential benefit.

      Reply
    • mrsball

      Thanks for replying, and thanks for the information regarding the state of cetacean birth control. I love the aquarium, and really enjoy myself every time I go, especially when I know my admission goes to so much research and rehab work. However, it seems strange to me that so much is known about artificial insemination but so little is known about preventative contraception. Why has there been so little progress in this area? Isn’t it of vital importance to the reproductive health of your animals? Now that these are the conditions under which you need to operate, I really think the aquarium should look at the bright side of this whole decision. Sure there aren’t going to be any more babies at the aquarium, but look at it as a research opportunity! You guys are going to become leaders in yet another field, and it will no doubt be beneficial to any captive female cetaceans who, for whatever reason, would be put in in real danger if they were to fall pregnant. It could prevent some of the inbreeding that sometimes happens, and it would prevent socially or emotionally immature yet sexually mature females from being impregnated. I’d say it’s good news for the reproductive health of all captive marine mammals.

      In the meantime, is it onerously difficult to prevent mating between cetaceans in an entirely human controlled environment? In animals that are tended to so carefully and receive such good medical treatment, it seems surprising that past pregnancies at the aquarium are not willfully designed and planned (in order to maintain genetic diversity as you say), rather than the happy accidents you are portraying.

      As an example, my dog is intact, and he comes into contact with unspayed females all the time, and sometimes with females in season. He’s never reproduced because I’ve never allowed it. Does the Dr. Nightingale and the aquarium consider me cruel for doing so? I really took Dr. Nightingale’s comment to heart because even though it would be natural behaviour for him to mate and make babies, it would be grossly irresponsible of me to allow offspring to be born whose futures are uncertain. Also, I know people who have 7-10 dogs, all intact, of both sexes, living together, and responsible, controlled selective breeding only occurs when they allow it. If offspring are not a good idea at that time, it doesn’t happen. Avoiding pregnancy is just as crucial a husbandry skill as facilitating breeding, and is a skill that has been utilized for thousands of years without the help of chemical or surgical birth control.

      Anyway, chin up, VanAqua, you do great and necessary work, and you will always have a place in my city, no matter the restrictions thrown your way!

      Reply
    • Laurence

      Vancouver Aquarium does release most of the animals they rescue and rehabilitate, but some, such as the Pacific White-sideds which suffered lasting injuries in the fishing net from which they were rescued, will likely not survive in the wild. The VA does not keep every single marine mammal it finds stranded or injured on a beach, after all- it releases most of them.

      Reply
    • Vancouver Aquarium

      Hi Nikki — We do not have a formal “breeding” program as the Park Board has suggested. When possible, we do keep our cetaceans in mixed sex groups. When cetaceans are of age, they sometimes mate, which may result in reproduction. The top accredited institutions across North America work together with the Association of Zoos and Aquarium’s (AZA) Marine Mammal Taxon Advisory Group to manage the genetic diversity of beluga whales in human care with the primary goal of maintaining genetic diversity (preventing inbreeding). Hope that helps to clarify.

      Reply
  23. alissa

    Hey while we are at it why don’t we allow the SPCA to group cats and dogs in cages together and allow them to ‘do what they do naturally”. Then we can permanently keep their offspring in said cages so we can spend their lives researching them. Not the same? These cesteans are said to be unreleasable RESCUES for the most part, to be protected??. There is NOTHING normal or natural about cesteans living in tanks swimming circles, so why is it that when it comes to breeding their NATURAL behavior is of import, moreso than the well being/welfare of future offspring that would be subjected to a life in captivity simply because they were unlucky enough to be born to imprisoned parents. The aquarium can spin any $ making endeavor into a ‘handful’ of activists without a clue. The truth is activism is not a dirty word and many of these activists are intelligent individuals who have extensively researched the fact and come to the conclusion they have. Not buying into the aquarium’s PR does not make one misguided nor misinformed. The aquarium will find loopholes to continue it’s ‘COLLECTION” of living, feeling, beings. For now though I am happy to see a small victory in common sense prevailing and perhaps a glimmer of hope for our species treating other species as equal being we share the Earth with, not ours to keep in unnatural habitats for our children to peer in at.

    Reply
    • Vancouver Aquarium

      The few well-cared for cetaceans at Vancouver Aquarium are non-releasable and contribute to non-invasive research that helps to save wild populations, such as the threatened beluga population in the St. Lawrence Estuary. One of our researchers studied beluga vocalizations between mothers and calves for 12 years in our controlled setting. She is now applying her learning to the wild population in Canada’s Arctic. The hope is that we will begin to understand how the impending increase in boat traffic (due to melting Arctic ice) will impact this population as beluga mothers and calves depend on vocalizations to stay connected.

      We appreciate that you care about cetaceans; we do too.

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  24. Gabriel A

    Should we also forbid breeding of cats and dogs in captivity? Sorry, can’t stand ignorant people.

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  25. Jake Weglewski

    My hat is off to Dr. Nightingale. I 100% support the Vancouver Aquarium. I’ve been to this place many times with my kids and we love it there. The care and support for the animals that the aquarium staff provides is amazing. The decision of the park board is just plain stupid. How can you stop animals from mating? It is unnatural and cruel. They are listening to a handful of people who want nothing else but to close the Vancouver Aquarium. How about listen to what the majority of people wants!

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  26. Jennifer Sangster

    The Vancouver Aquarium *does not have* a captive breeding program. I’m not sure how you missed this in the article above, or in the volumes of information available on the vanaqua and other independent sites. That’s half the reason why this decision by the Parks Board is so off-side- there isn’t such a program, and there was never an intention to have one. Has a beluga or dolphin become pregnant naturally? Yes, duh, that’s what happens when males and females are together. Do you now plan to separate these family pods? Who would pay for the necessary expansion to do so? Do you now subject them to test versions of contraception? To perform sterilization surgery? To perform an abortion surgery? It’s ludicrous! ‘Captive breeding programs’ are programs used to intentionally create offspring, often by artificial insemination. This simply isn’t the case for vanaqua.

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  27. Michael Manchester

    You claim that the decision to ban breeding at the aquarium goes against nature. This is an ironic argument considering it is also against nature to keep these animals in captivity in the first place. They are already deprived of many behaviors that they would engage in if they lived autonomously in the wild. It seems the Park Board is trying to correct a mistake that was made in the first place.

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    • Vancouver Aquarium

      Not sure what you mean by your comment. Our Pacific white-sided dolphins and harbour porpoises are rescued, rehabilitated and non-releasable animals due to their inability to survive on their own. What would you suggest happen to these cetaceans?

      Reply
  28. Richard

    The Vancouver Aquarium, if you have read the many letters submitted by many scientists form other aquarium and research facility, do need a captive cetaceans for their research, which compliments the research performed in the wild. According to the experts who have come forth (including the Monterey Bay Aquarium) who supports the Vancouver Aquarium, your assertion that it is far better to study them in the wold and that captivity is wrong is clearly not correct. BTW, the Vancouver Aquarium does not have a captive breeding program. Your fact is also incorrect. I do not work for the aquarium. I live in Vancouver and I go there with my family all the time. I admire, respect, and appreciate the work they have done. It is a great opportunity for us to be educated and come face to face to meet these wonderful creatures that the aquarium has taken such great care of. My daughter wants to grow up to become a marine biologists largely due to the exposure at the aquarium. It is a great pleasure to be able to visit the aquarium so conveniently. I am disappointed and puzzled by the decision made by the park boards. I feel that it clearly shows their lack of understanding and qualification to decide on such matters.

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  29. Tim Chow

    I can say, as a recently retired long time Vancouver Park Board Project Manager, this decision is perfectly normal…….the unenforceable “No Dolphin F******” [edited for language] law was agreed to, simply to allow the animal activists to “save face”.

    I trust in time, common sense will prevail and this decision will be reversed or simply just “go away”.

    You wouldn’t believe how much time, money, energy and resources are wasted on “no-brainer” issues such as this, just to appease the outspoken militant minority.

    This is why it’s so important for the public to speak out on issues they believe in……and not just on ones they are against.

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  30. Alicia Curry

    I agree a 100% with Dr. Nightingale. I feel like the vancouver aquarium is being attacked more than they are being appraised. I just want to say that you guys are doing an amazing job and keep up the great work.

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  31. Melanie Sora

    An incredibly disappointing and ignorant decision by the Parks Board. So what is the answer to this? Segregation? That’s not healthy for the animals. Birth control? Give me a break… What if there is an unwanted pregnancy? Are they going to vote to kill the baby because it breached their asinine law? It is inhumane to demand such a thing.

    Reply
  32. Linda

    Why is this Park Board catering to the few? Why do they not hear & support the opinions of the many? Perhaps the people of the province should be voting to make the decisions regarding such jewels in our province. Do they have a plan? Are they going to pay for contraception for all the creatures at the Aquarium? Are they going to fund separate habitats for every animal there? Businesses in the Greater Vancouver area take note….my family has traveled to your area on several occasions just to visit the Vancouver Aquarium. We stayed in hotels, we ate in restaurants, we shopped, we spent $$$. If the goal is to close this facility & that does appear to be the goal (to satisfy a noisy, ill informed few), our family won’t be traveling to or spending our $$$ in your area. I doubt that ours is the only family feeling this way. Tourists spend money. Money is a business’s bottom line. Perhaps the tourist minded businesses should be speaking up & put an end to these kinds of decisions.

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  33. Jane A. Garsson

    The Vancouver Aquarium does not need a captive breeding program for their Beluga Whales, or any captive cetaceans for that matter.
    As a scientific conservation organization, it is far better to study these animals in the wild, as Mother Nature had intended.
    The Monterey Bay Aquarium is an excellent example of what active conservation and marine environmental education is all about. They do study the Whales, Otters and other marine mammals in their native habitats, and conduct wildlife rescues and rehabilitations when needed.
    Visitors that come to this Aquarium, should be educated about our fragile Oceans and learn to respect it, not be merely entertained!

    Reply
    • Vancouver Aquarium

      If you’ve been to the Vancouver Aquarium, you would see that our interpreter-led shows are educational and conservation-based. Monterey is a lovely aquarium but they also don’t lead cetacean research. Thanks.

      Reply
    • Gabriel A

      The Vancouver Aquarium does not have a captive breeding program. Mother nature does. Pick your fight with her.

      Reply
  34. Michael Hill

    Where do we go to let the park board know that this is not ok? If it’s a handful of activists harassing them to make these decisions, then maybe a couple handfuls of real Vancouverites expressing their displeasure will make them see reason.

    Reply
  35. Jeanie

    Thank you Dr Nightingale. This is very distressing, political posturing at its worst.
    I can only hope that good sense and reason prevail. Those poor animals. Best wishes to you all at Vancouver Aquarium, humans and creatures. Those of us not so blind can see the good that you do here and we stand with you.

    Reply
  36. Mrs.Mellon

    This is just SO disturbing. What is wrong with people who pretend to be experts but are clueless? This just makes me so so sad and I want to know what we can do to appeal?

    Reply
  37. Florence Hawker

    I support the Aquarium, and I also agree with Dr. Nightingale’s letter. The activists who have been ‘spoiling’ for this fight for years are so shortsighted in their viewpoints. I hope the new elected Parks Board will not be so short sighted and will negate or reverse the decision and let the Aquarium manage the Aquarium.

    We have a jewel. Let us not destroy it.

    Reply
  38. Kelly

    You keep your sea otters from breeding by keeping Elfin and Walter (your male sea otters) on male birth control. Why are the cetaceans any different? Once again, you are being disingenuous. You are suggesting that the Parks Board is making you do something with cetaceans that you don’t already do very voluntarily and effectively with other species.

    Reply
    • Vancouver Aquarium

      We have tried some contraceptives with sea otters although not currently. Unfortunately even some of the new GnRH agonist implants have been associated with reproductive disorders such as pyometra and endometrial hyperplasia in sea otters. These have resulted in serious disease and have required complicated surgery to resolve. Complex open abdominal surgery in cetaceans has been performed only a very, very small number of times. It has been successful in even fewer. At this time, cetacean anesthesia and surgery are considered extremely high risk techniques.

      Contraceptives have been somewhat evaluated in bottlenose dolphins though only in a small number. They are very poorly evaluated in other species and to our knowledge only some older types have been used at all in belugas and none have been given to harbour porpoises.

      At this time, therefore, the risks associated with contraceptive use in the animals we have far outweigh any potential benefit.

      Reply
    • Marcus W

      @Kelly – Sea otters are far less social than cetaceans. Mature males like Elfin and Walter are territorial in the wild – they are fine alone. Cetaceans on the other hand do need social companions – even harbour porpoises, which are known to form only very small pods. Jack and Daisy, rescued as infants, have known each other for a very long time, they are ‘friends’ and can often be seen socializing and playing — they are also male and female. It would be cruel to separate them.

      Reply
    • Josh

      I just read that the US National Aquarium in Washington/Baltimore voluntarily halted reproduction in its eight dolphins in 2012. Do you know how they did it?

      Reply
  39. Monica Earl

    Shame on the park board. That decision is ridiculous! How would they like it if the roles were reversed.

    Reply
  40. Lindsay Parker

    Well said Dr. Nightingale! The Park Board Commision has no idea the consequences of their decision.

    Reply

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