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