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.

Comments (15) Add New Comment
Richard C
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.
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Kim Johannsen
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.
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Martin Dunphy
Kim:

It is Georgia Straight policy not to publish email responses in lieu of an interview.
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Nick
Will there be a seafood brunch served?
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Anita
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
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Kim Johannsen
@Martin Care to explain why the same author then included an email response from the PHS in this article http://www.straight.com/life/643766/early-results-suggest-drinkers-loung...?

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Martin Dunphy
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.
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Anita Romaniuk
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.
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Tim Greenwell
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.
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Travis Lupick
@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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Ruth
Organizers are international/American? Do they even understand our (being a Vancouverite, I will say our) aquarium's animals are rescued or are they just playing off emotions of Blackfish which has nothing to do with the Vancouver Aquarium? It's simply not feasible for sea pens (and what happens when there's an oil spill or increased noise pollution from all the new tankers that the government is determined to bring in) to be a solution for the rescued animals.

I've loved visiting the Aquarium since I was a young child and the educational benefits from it inspired me to get my degree in environmental management so I could go out in the world to make a difference. I will NOT be supporting this 'protest'.
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Anita Romaniuk
While the Vancouver Aquarium doesn't capture whales or dolphins from the wild directly, they do receive injured cetaceans which originated in the wild, although they might have had a stopover or two in other aquariums or holding facilities. Many whales and dolphins are injured as the result of the fishing industry, (including the infamous Japanese fishery), and others have unfortunate interactions with boats - in other words, their injuries are caused by humans. As some sort of consolation prize, they end up in captivity in aquariums. The Japanese and other fisheries that snare dolphins and whales know that they can make money selling their captive live cetaceans to aquariums, which only encourages them.
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Hank Gunderson
@Anita thank you for reminding me of what the potential alternative to a Vision/NPA park board would look like. COPE's policy of "Supports a Referendum on the Aquarium keeping Cetaceans in Captivity Before the 2015 Review" is a stalwart of ineptitude on multiple levels. Firstly you failed to have any apparent influence on a referendum - likely due to the fact COPE doesn't have an elected representative on the Parks Board. Secondly, your organization brazenly posits that you will have elected Parks Board representatives after the November election - where they will then push for a referendum in 2015, which will likely fail since it's highly unlikely that COPE if elected will dominate the PB. And if COPE miraculously achieves the first three challenges of getting enough representatives elected to the PB and successfully pushing for a referendum and finally the referendum actually passing they plan on doing nothing until 2027? Which if I do my maths right would mean that COPE would somehow have to survive three successive elections to ensure that any action imposed as a result of a successive referendum would remain in place?

Come on now even the most desperate punters in Vegas won't take these odds.
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Richard C
@Anita Romaniuk, your first point answers itself, the research being done on acoustics takes a long time precisely because it is done in a humane and non invasive manner. It takes a long time just to habituate the animals in care to assist in the research voluntarily, ie without stressing them. Once you have got to that point the long process of undertaking research has to occur which cannot be done intensively, again for the animals benefit and is not a simple set of questions that can be answered, heck half the challenge is finding out what needs to be asked in the first place to give reliable results that can be applied to solutions. Eventually this work will benefit the 300,000 plus cetaceans killed accidentally in fixed fishing nets each year (!) which brings us to your second post. Fixed net entanglements (from fishing industries) and drive fisheries are completely different things, do not confuse them or muddy the waters here. The dolphins at VA are rescue animals, not prized animals that were sold. The injuries they suffered and had to be nursed back from actually would have cost a lot of money so think about the logic of what you are saying. Check out the horrific injuries to the fins of the dolphins at the VA and ask yourself if they would likely be the ones to be sold rather than slaughtered from the 'infamous Japanese fisheries' you allude to. Some facilities around the world that are not accredited do purchase drive fishery animals, but the VA absolutely does not, nor do they receive any.
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Anita Romaniuk
1. When I was a parks commissioner 2003-2005, we were told about the two injured dolphins well before the Aquarium actually brought them in - in 2004 and it was not until Oct 2005 that they arrived. Obviously whoever was keeping the dolphins in the months prior managed to keep them alive for all that time. If they can be nursed back to some semblance of health then why not let them live out their lives in sea pens as has been suggested by many activists other than myself. 2. Ah, so even the acoustics does have the potential to stress the animals? And if it takes this long I question that it is healthy for the cetaceans. Years and years. Ugh. 3. I did differentiate between the drive fisheries and the accidental encounters with boats (and by extension the fishing nets that are used by the boats), but they are both adverse effects that are caused by humans, and humans are responsible for much of the decrease in species in general, world wide. We're a destructive lot and there are too many of us. If you're looking for causes, we have seen the enemy, and it is us.
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