May 24 Vancouver Aquarium protest part of a global campaign to free whales

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A protest planned for outside the Vancouver Aquarium this weekend will be one of a number of simultaneous demonstrations taking place in 21 countries. In a telephone interview, Jeffrey Matthews, an organizer of the Vancouver event, said people should expect a “family-friendly demonstration”.

“It’s in support of the mayor and the parks board in making changes at the aquarium to see whales and dolphins phased out,” he said. (In recent months, Mayor Gregor Robertson and several civic politicians have spoken publicly against keeping large marine mammals at the aquarium.)

“We’re expecting a pretty big crowd,” Matthews continued. “Probably the biggest in Vancouver’s history.”

The protests’ international organizer, Rachel Carbary, told the Straight that although the day of action is collectively called “Empty the Tanks”, its goals aren’t quite as dramatic as that name suggests.

The Sea Shepherd Seattle volunteer explained that the group accepts that some animals, having spent prolonged periods of time in aquariums, are not suitable for release into the wild. But she said that many captive cetaceans can be rehabilitated and released. Others, she continued, such as those that have been injured, can be moved to saltwater sea pens.

"They don’t need to be forced into these cramped pools with these fake environments around them and music and crowds and all this noise,” she said.

Carbary noted that the Vancouver Aquarium is mentioned at the top of materials promoting the international day of action.

“There has been a lot of activity going on with Vancouver and determining whether they should end cetacean captivity there,” she said. “People are really starting to put pressure on this park and it’s become a topic of conversation.”

The Vancouver Aquarium did not make a representative available for an interview. Spokesperson Charlene Chiang sent the Straight an email emphasizing the organization’s conservation efforts.

The Stanley Park facility is home to two beluga whales and two Pacific white-sided dolphins. It is undergoing a $100-million expansion that will make room for more cetaceans to be kept in its tanks. The aquarium’s agreement with the park board is up for review in 2015.

The Vancouver protest is scheduled for Saturday (May 24) at 2 p.m.

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15 Comments

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Richard C

May 21, 2014 at 12:18pm

Well meaning I'm sure but a misplaced effort I feel. This is not Marineland or SeaWorld in fact the place does an awful lot of good for wild animals, and their resident animals are treated with respect and used to educate visitors rather than forced to perform in glitzy entertainment shows. Effort would be better spent getting the for profit big guys to follow the VA's example of putting conservation front and centre. I'd also like to see a sensible response as to what should be done with their rescued animals rather than saying sea pens as if it's obvious. The cost, difficulty of staffing, risk to the animals and the isolation aspects are never considered in this scenario. Even if it was possible. out of sight out of mind may make people feel comfortable but what is it really achieving? I'd rather support the VA in getting the funds to continue improving their care facilities and setting the standard for education over entertainment. The horror stories that do exist in less reputable places should not be confused with what we have here. There is a great article in the Vancouver Sun by their vet staff on the care and research work. An interesting read.

Kim Johannsen

May 21, 2014 at 2:20pm

Hmm is this an actual article - because it reads more like an event listing or press release. You even mentioned that the aquarium sent you an email yet decided not to put any of that into your article - which leaves me with an impression that this publication is only interested in one side of the story.

Martin Dunphy

May 21, 2014 at 2:36pm

Kim:

It is <em>Georgia Straight</em> policy not to publish email responses in lieu of an interview.

Nick

May 21, 2014 at 4:18pm

Will there be a seafood brunch served?

Anita

May 21, 2014 at 6:54pm

Why does the poster for this protest that I see on walls around the city talk about marching for stopping the further capture of cetaceans? The aquarium here doesn't capture cetaceans from the wild it makes the message seem to be confused, I think the aquarium here is quite different to others

Martin Dunphy

May 21, 2014 at 11:12pm

KIm:

Certainly, although you already know the answer if you actually read the article. It was updated with a clearly labelled addition (the information you refer to) at the bottom because, as was explained in the article, the PHS, under new management, was not able to grant an interview under the constraints of our deadline that day.
They did not refuse to grant an interview, as is often the case with some organizations.
Our policy of no email interviews (except with very rare exceptions) has been in place for many years, and we are possibly the only media outlet in B.C. (maybe the country) that still adheres to such a practice.

Anita Romaniuk

May 22, 2014 at 2:16am

The Vancouver Aquarium usually touts their "research" as part of their "conservation" efforts, despite the rather thin list they can come up with - they've been telling us about research on the impact of sound (noise) on cetaceans for over a decade - just how long does this research take? They can't do research on anything that would have really adverse impacts on the cetaceans because it would harm them or even lead to death. And all this "research" or "conservation" still doesn't justify the cruelty of keeping the whales and dolphins in captivity.

Tim Greenwell

May 22, 2014 at 8:36am

So wait the Straight follows it's own policies only some of the time?

It seems interesting that these individuals are readily willing to admit that there is little point to their own protest "group accepts that some animals, having spent prolonged periods of time in aquariums, are not suitable for release into the wild" yet implore people to show up. They don't even offer a solution to the supposed problem at hand.

The reality is that the politicians don't really care about this issue and rather it go away. Furthermore the majority of Vancouverites don't care, the event has just over 400 people listed as attending with individuals readily admitting that they are from outside the city of Vancouver that's under 0.05% of the population.

Travis Lupick

May 22, 2014 at 9:05am

@Kim Johannsen, thanks for your comment. Here is the email I received from the Vancouver Aquarium in response to my request for an interview. It's presented in its entirety. You can decide for yourself what information we withheld.

Hello Travis,

Here is a copy of Dr. Martin Haulena’s op-ed for your reference if you’d like some information about our conservation efforts for your story: http://bit.ly/1m9CCea

Regards,
Charlene

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