We are deeply disappointed and strongly disagree with the Vancouver Park Board’s proposed amendment to the Parks Control By-laws to prohibit the importation and display of cetaceans (whales and dolphins) at the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre.
“The timing and execution of the proposed amendment isn’t yet known, but a ban on displaying all cetaceans at the Vancouver Aquarium will have a deep impact on the research we do and devastate our marine mammal rescue centre,” said Dr. John Nightingale, CEO and president of the Vancouver Aquarium. “We have operated one of the world’s best aquariums in Stanley Park for 60 years, are recognized leaders in marine mammal research and have the fourth largest marine mammal rescue centre in the world. This decision will diminish all of that.”
As a community partner, the Aquarium has a history of listening to the public, which we demonstrated last month when we announced plans for a 12-year beluga conservation program with an end date of 2029. It was a plan that took into account the best interests of science, the animals in our care, and it was good public policy. The plan included a thoughtful transition for a future without beluga whales, it would have allowed the Aquarium to continue to provide a home for rescued and non-releasable animals, and it included an expanded cetacean research program with cetaceans at the Aquarium and in the wild. All of that is now in jeopardy.
The decision will also impact the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Centre — the only marine mammal hospital of its kind in Canada. Vancouver-based first responders have been saving whales and dolphins along B.C.’s coast for more than 50 years, and because of the expertise the team has gained working with animals at the Aquarium, the team rescues, rehabilitates and releases 150 or more marine animals a year. Under an amended bylaw, the Aquarium’s Rescue Centre may no longer be able to rescue stranded whales, dolphins and porpoises that are sick or injured.
For an enduring community organization founded by Vancouver residents, we feel the true essence of the subject was lost in the conversation.
“While we debated the value of caring for and studying cetaceans, there is no debating that we are experiencing the biggest mass extinction since the age of dinosaurs,” said Nightingale. “As a not for profit, non-partisan, research- and conservation-based organization, we believe it is our mission to fight for nature.”
The Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre is a non-profit society dedicated to the conservation of aquatic life. www.vanaqua.org