Vancouver Aquarium launched a public awareness effort today to save its Marine Mammal Rescue Program, and called upon members of the public to make their support known to the Vancouver Park Board.
The Marine Mammal Rescue Program helps more than 100 sick, injured or orphaned marine mammals that are found stranded annually along the B.C. coastline. Most are treated, rehabilitated and successfully released back into the wild by the rescue program, the only hospital and care facility of its kind in Canada.
But for some – including a false killer whale and a harbour porpoise currently receiving ongoing care through the rescue program – the extent of their injuries or lack of basic survival skills means they cannot survive in their natural habitat, and they need a place to call home.
However, the rescue program is threatened by a proposed Park Board bylaw that would ban all cetaceans from the Vancouver Aquarium, including rescued animals that Fisheries and Oceans Canada deem unfit for release.
“The proposed bylaw has generated concern among our staff, members, and the public about the fate of the Marine Mammal Rescue Program and cetaceans currently in our care,” said Randy Pratt, incoming Chair of the Vancouver Aquarium’s Board of Directors. “We share those concerns, and we are asking the public to make their voices heard on this issue.”
Members of the public can use the Vancouver Aquarium’s online platform to send a short letter to the Park Board expressing their support for the Marine Mammal Rescue Program, and attend the Vancouver Park Board meeting on May 15, 2017. At that meeting, the Vancouver Park Board is expected to vote on the proposed bylaw.
Currently, the Marine Mammal Rescue Program is the only one of its kind in Canada, with the accreditation, resources and expertise to provide ongoing care for non-releasable marine mammals. The rescue program is governed by Fisheries and Oceans Canada, which ultimately decides whether an animal can be released back into the wild after its rehabilitation.
“Our top priority is the health and welfare of animals in our care,” said Dr. Martin Haulena, Head Veterinarian, Vancouver Aquarium. “Not only would the proposed ban jeopardize Canada’s only Marine Mammal Rescue Program, it would eliminate our ability to save the most vulnerable animals – those that cannot care for themselves.”
Vancouver Aquarium CEO John Nightingale added: “The proposed bylaw undermines the health and welfare of sick, injured or orphaned marine mammals including whales, dolphins, and porpoises. We are committed to the marine mammals who need our care, to education, and to ocean conservation. Please join us in making your voice heard. We appreciate your support.”