The Vancouver Aquarium commenced legal proceedings in the B.C. Supreme Court yesterday to overturn a Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation bylaw amendment that bans cetaceans from the Vancouver Aquarium’s marine science centre in Stanley Park in the future.

The Vancouver Aquarium’s application for judicial review names the Park Board and the City of Vancouver as respondents, and seeks a ruling from the B.C. Supreme Court that the Park Board’s bylaw amendment, enacted on May 15, 2017, is invalid and of no force and effect.

The Vancouver Aquarium’s legal petition notes that, among other concerns:

  • the Park Board does not have the statutory power to enact the bylaw amendment;
  • the Park Board commissioners refused to hear representations from the Vancouver Aquarium concerning the bylaw amendment, having made up their minds well before May 15;
  • the language of the Park Board’s bylaw amendment is unacceptably vague; and
  • the bylaw amendment renders the remaining phases of the Vancouver Aquarium’s approved $100-million revitalization and expansion project obsolete. ($45 million of public and private funding has already been invested to date.)

“The ramifications and impacts of the Park Board bylaw amendment are so far reaching that they fundamentally change the Vancouver Aquarium’s ability to deliver its mission of conserving the world’s oceans. As a result, we have no choice but to defend ourselves,” said John Nightingale, President and CEO, Vancouver Aquarium.

The legal petition details numerous adverse impacts from the Park Board’s bylaw amendment on the Vancouver Aquarium’s mandate of conservation and operations, including the loss of a long-term home for rescued, non-releasable cetaceans. The Vancouver Aquarium’s rescue program is the only one of its kind in Canada with the facilities, accreditation and expertise to provide ongoing care for sick and stranded whales, dolphins and porpoises that Fisheries and Oceans Canada deems to be unfit for release following rescue and rehabilitation.

Other adverse impacts of the Park Board’s bylaw amendment include:

  • The loss of funds to operate the Vancouver Aquarium’s marine mammal rescue program, which rescues more than 100 marine mammals along B.C.’s coastlines each year.
  • The loss of critical expertise related to cetacean stranding response and veterinary care.
  • Severe impacts to the Vancouver Aquarium’s ability to advance scientific knowledge for the rescue, rehabilitation and conservation of whales, dolphins and porpoises in the wild.
  • Harm arising to the Vancouver Aquarium’s staff from the risk of quasi-criminal sanctions.

“We cannot stand by and allow the Park Board to threaten the health and welfare of cetaceans, or develop bylaws on the fly that undermine our animal protection, conservation, research and education mandates,” added Nightingale. “We deeply appreciate the overwhelming support we have received in recent weeks from the people of Vancouver and British Columbia. We will continue to fight the bylaw amendment so we can continue to provide the programs that benefit vulnerable cetaceans, our oceans, and the broader community.”

This matter is now before the courts. On the advice of legal counsel, Randall Hordo QC and Caitlin Ohama-Darcus of Nathanson, Schachter & Thompson LLP, the Vancouver Aquarium will refrain from providing any further comments on the matter at this time.

Vancouver Aquarium, an Ocean Wise initiative, is one of the world’s leading accredited aquariums, dedicated to the conservation of aquatic life. Explore with us at


3 Responses

  1. Dawne YOUNG

    So MUCH has and will continue to be spoken re: the undermining of our Aquatic Caring (cetacean) Vancouver Aquarium ‘teaches’ us NOW and FUTURE education to the ‘REALITIES’ of our ocean life. Vancouver Parks Board should NOT be part of this undermining. PROVINCIAL & FEDERAL Governments should be this BC Province
    Legal Patron to ‘protection’. Afterall, isn’t BC actually ON THE OCEAN and known as the Pacific Northwest? GO and SUPPORT. Let’s NOT add this LOSS to the list!!!
    I was ‘born’ in Vancouver and remember what Stanley Park used to look like and
    what it looks or represents now. It needs to represent the ‘full caring beauty’ and the ‘ocean ‘visual’ and ‘learned education’ needs to be protected for our peoples.
    This is what WE ALL WANT!!

  2. Mike Best

    I wholeheartedly support the Vancouver Aquarium’s right to continue doing business as “an aquarium”. It appears that the terms of the lease for the land and operations of the Aquarium should not be subject to restrictions on the lessee by the lessor when the lease is already in place. If I lease a store to sell sundry and grocery items and my lessor says to me I can no longer sell sodas because they cause obesity, and it is in the middle of my lease, I query whether the lessor has the right to stop me. Isn’t it the same argument with the Park Board’s sudden bylaw adjustment that interferes with the Aquarium’s right to perform its business? I guess no one cares about the fact that the Aquarium is one of the main tourist attractions for the city of Vancouver and the ancillary benefits (and revenues) add up to a staggering amount of money for Vancouver. Sea mammals, cetaceans, reptiles and others need to be kept in captivity so the world can observe and understand the importance and contribution of these creatures to Mother Earth. Without a way to observe these animals in captivity means no education for the next generation.

  3. Myra McCloy

    I am so glad you are taking the Parks Board to court. I feel they are an uneducated group of people regarding animal care and rescue. They do not listen to highly qualified people in the field and should have nothing to do with the running of the Vancouver Aquarium. In fact I don’t think there should even be a parks board any more. I have been a long time member since my children were young and now have grandchildren who continue to enjoy and learn from the Aquarium, also the Mammal Rescue Centre which is such an important part of the Aquarium. Keep up the good work. Some of us listen to the experts.


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