Vancouver park board rejects vote on whales
Darcy Wintonyk, ctvbc.ca
Published Tuesday, July 20, 2010 9:55AM PDT
The Vancouver Aquarium is applauding a decision to reject a vote on whether whales and dolphins should be kept in captivity.
On Thursday night, Vancouver Park Board commissioners denied a motion to add a non-binding plebiscite on the issue to next year's municipal ballot, meaning voters won't get a say on the issue at the city's aquarium until at least 2015.
The vote was initiated a month ago by board member Stuart MacKinnon after a one-year-old beluga whale, Nala, died at the facility.
The calf died after two rocks and a penny were caught in a pocket in the whale's airway.
MacKinnon said he's not surprised by the rejection but he's hopeful the Vancouver Aquarium will eventually remove whale and dolphin displays by its own volition.
But Vancouver Aquarium President Dr. John Nightingale says he has no plans to close down the exhibits, and that the rejection reflects the sentiment of the community.
Nightingale said results of its own independent 2006 consultations about keeping whales in captivity were overwhelmingly positive.
"The majority of people in Vancouver and the Lower Mainland support the Aquarium having whales and dolphins in Stanley Park," said Nightingale.
"We're pleased with the Parks Board decision, which enables us to continue to focus on our conservation, education and research efforts."
Commissionner Aaron Jasper said MacKinnon's motion could have put Vancouver taxpayers in a tricky spot.
Jasper said the city could have faced a hefty lawsuit if the board broke its agreement with the aquarium and reviewed the captive whale issue before 2015.
"It is a scenario," he told CTV News.
"Whether or not we agree with whales in captivity, the aquarium signed an agreement with the park board in good faith. And for us now to change those goal posts at this point isn't fair."
The Vancouver Aquarium's lease with Stanley Park is up in five years, and the city could make the banning of whales and dolphins a condition of its renewal.
Janos Mate of Whale Friends welcomes the news of a possible ban on whales in captivity.
"The educational value of being up close to a big animal is really basically a thrill; it is not true education. True education involves fully understanding the essence of that animal, how that animal lives in the wild -- not how that animal lives in captivity," he said.
The Vancouver Aquarium obtained its first whale, Kavna, in 1976, seven years after the animal was captured in the Hudson Bay off Churchill, Manitoba.
The aquarium abandoned its direct-capture policy after it acquired Aurora, Nala's mother, and now only accepts whales and dolphins that have been injured or born in captivity.