Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre applauds Canada’s Accredited Zoos and Aquariums (CAZA) for its leadership in establishing an extensive national study of cetaceans in professional care, which will begin this fall.

The in-depth study of cetaceans in human care will include a robust review of scientific data, as published in peer-reviewed publications, regarding the professional care of beluga whales, dolphins and other cetaceans and their contribution to public engagement, research and conservation efforts. This will be the first national study of cetaceans in human care that will include field research to fully understand the science behind cetacean welfare in human care.

“We applaud Canada’s Accredited Zoos and Aquariums for taking the progressive step in reviewing science-based evidence on the care and welfare of cetaceans in human care,” says Dr. John Nightingale, Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre president and CEO. “We know accredited aquariums and public stakeholders are interested in the clear science – not just the opinions we hear today – and an independent study of the safety, standards and care of whales and dolphins will establish a model of best practices grounded in scientific data.”

The independent review will be led by one of Canada’s leading marine biologists Dr. David Rosen, UBC Marine Mammal Research Unit. Dr. Rosen will guide a team to examine the determinants of cetacean well-being to inform a set of recommendations for evidence-based standards of care on behalf of CAZA. The first phase will include a literature review and scope out field research parameters and methodology. In the second phase, Dr. Rosen will be leading field research, analyzing the scientific data and providing recommendations.

As a science-based institution, Vancouver Aquarium already meets or exceeds the rigorous Canadian Council on Animal Care Standards, which were released last year. The new study by CAZA will provide even further evidence-based grounding specifically for the professional care of cetaceans in Canada.

“Canada has always been at the forefront of best animal care practices,” adds Dr. Nightingale. “This in-depth Canadian study on cetacean care, led by marine mammal scientists with expertise in whales and dolphins and grounded in scientific data, will help inform public policy and establish a national set of standards for the care of cetaceans, which we fully support.”

Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre has been at the forefront of cetacean welfare since its inception 59 years ago. The Aquarium’s exemplary leadership in veterinary care, animal husbandry, groundbreaking research and aquatic conservation has contributed to international best practices applied around the world.

Vancouver Aquarium’s leadership in caring for whales and dolphins enables it to lead Canada’s only Marine Mammal Rescue Centre – the nation’s marine mammal hospital that rescues, rehabilitates and releases more than 100 sick, injured or stranded animals every year. The Aquarium’s deep history of providing veterinary care to save these animals is made possible by the Aquarium’s team of marine mammal professionals who care for whales, dolphins, porpoises, and other marine mammals that have needed long-term care at its facility.

As the first aquarium in the world to receive professional accreditation by the international Association of Zoos and Aquariums, and a key institution in creating a Canadian-based professional accreditation association, Vancouver Aquarium looks forward to sharing nearly six decades of cetacean research data, technical expertise and professional insight as part of the cetaceans in human care study conducted by CAZA.

The first phase of the study will be completed by December 2015 followed by a second phase, which will be completed by July 2016.

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