By John Nightingale, President and CEO of the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre

As the Park Board is not allowing anyone to speak tonight, I wanted to share my personal thoughts on the topic of rescuing whales, dolphins and porpoises.

As a long-time resident of Metro Vancouver, I have seen the changes occurring along our coastlines. Just two decades ago, our oceans were teeming with life, but growing urban development, overfishing, changing climate and ocean pollution have wreaked havoc on our once thriving marine environments. As a marine biologist and research scientist, I have dedicated my life to studying, sharing and safeguarding our delicate ecosystems.

I have had the unique honour of serving as president and CEO at Vancouver Aquarium for the past 24 years. Much has changed during this time. With the introduction of Moby Doll, the community’s love of killer whales is now unparalleled because we now know an incredible amount about the species and the need to protect them. This is what I would consider a success as I think about the legacy I hope to leave my grandchildren.

We were well on our way with other whales, dolphins and porpoises too. On my daily strolls through our galleries, I see it in the eyes of the young who come face to face with an animal they’ve only read about in books – that bright-eyed wonder is the spark that connects our youth to aquatic life, making it all the more real, awesome and emotional.

Over the past several weeks, we have seen an outpouring of love and support from more than 13,000 community members. Each of these citizens took the time to write to you with his or her heartfelt letter because, like me, he or she believes in saving our most vulnerable marine mammals that strand along our beaches. Whales, dolphins and porpoises that strand do so because they were either separated from their mothers, or they sustained an injury or became ill. These are our most helpless animals and they deserve a chance to live if we’re able to give it to them.

As you consider your vote tonight, I hope you will consider this: the debate of keeping cetaceans in human care should not be the core issue here. Rather, the core issue should be  about doing what is right for whales, dolphins and porpoises that can no longer care for themselves. We should be proud of the incredible work our Marine Mammal Rescue Program leads – Vancouver is the only city in all of Canada that boasts a team of first responders who take on emergent cases around-the-clock. Paramedics of the sea, as I like to call them. This team who dedicates long nights and days to caring for our most vulnerable cases do it out of love, and nothing else.

At a time when we need more empathy for animals in an increasingly destructive marine environment, often caused by humans, we have the responsibility to do right by helpless whales, dolphins and porpoises.

In closing, I ask that you set aside whatever personal opinion you may have and think about the animals that wash up along the sandy shores of our waters and join the 95 per cent of residents in Metro Vancouver who believe whales, dolphins and porpoises should be saved and continue to thrive in a caring home we’re able to provide if they are unfit to survive on their own.

John Nightingale, PhD

Vancouver Aquarium


9 Responses

  1. Suzanne de Montigny

    What next? Court case? Let’s fight this. This should be Greater Vancouver’s decision.

  2. Suzanne de Montigny

    What every happened to democracy? This is truly a sad day for Vancouver. Yet another small, angry, activist group decides our future. It would have been so much better had they gone out and cleaned up the ocean or banned plastic, the true killers of cetaceans.

  3. Ellwood Harris

    I am with the Vancouver Aquarium. Save the mammals when you can, giving them life instead of pain and death. Then study them to learn more about them. We are not as smart about the creatures of the sea as we like to think we are. I am from Milton, Ontario ( west of Toronto). I have been to the Vancouver Aquarium and will go again when in Vancouver even if you are forced to find a new location.

  4. Leanna Coutu

    What a great letter — my daughther decided when she was 3 that she wanted to be a “doctor for the dolphins” — she never changed her mind and has dedicated her life to research for the betterment of our oceans and life in the sea. She looks forward to every opportunity she can to do anything to save the lives of the oceanic creatures large and small. She volunteered at the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre when she had the opportunity; loves teaching about the ecosystem to all who will listen and educates the less informed. The Aquarium is an amazing place to care for the beautiful mammals who can no longer care for themselves. Putting their care above the views of uninformed masses is most important here.

    • Vancouver Aquarium

      Hi Leanna, thank you for sharing this with us. We are so thankful for your support and for passionate youth like your daughter who are working towards being our future ocean conservation leaders! We encourage her to keep caring about and protecting all marine life.

  5. Sherry Howland

    I can’t believe this is even being debated! Has our Trump virus crossed the northern border to inflict senseless havoc on you as well? No, I am not a Vancouver resident, I’m not even Canadian. But this is not a localized issue! These magnificent creatures belong to ALL of us, and if something happens, a dolphin washes up on your shore and YOU refuse to act to save it, YOU are robbing ALL of us of this life, this incredible gift of nature. You have no right to do that. NONE

  6. Bruce Dougan

    Very well stated John. I wish you and the rescue team but most importantly the cetaceans that need your assistance a positive outcome this evening.

    Bruce Dougan



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