Five of the nine candidates vying for Vision Vancouver nominations for park board want to see the Vancouver Aquarium phase out its whale and dolphin exhibits.
In separate phone interviews, Katherine Day, Catherine Evans, Brent Granby, Trish Kelly, and Coree Tull told the Georgia Straight they would prefer the aquarium and the park board work together to end the practice of cetacean captivity at the Stanley Park facility. Both Kelly and Tull asserted it's important to support the aquarium in finding a business model that works without whales.
"There are aquariums throughout the world that are not keeping whales and dolphins in captivity and still have viable business models," Kelly said.
Day and Evans noted they are against cetacean births in captivity but don't have a problem with the aquarium rescuing injured marine mammals. As a father who's taken his kids to the aquarium, Granby said he's "torn" about the issue.
"There's a growing awareness that it's unethical to keep animals in captivity, particularly the belugas and the dolphins," Granby said. "But I think, at the same time, we need to recognize the good work that's being done at the aquarium in terms of some of those sustainability issues."
The other four candidates—Graham Anderson, Naveen Girn, Mark Mitchell, and Sammie Jo Rumbaua—told the Straight they are undecided on the issue. Rumbaua said she wants to hear more from "both sides" before taking a stand.
"The aquarium clearly needs to show the benefit," Mitchell said. "I'm not sure at the moment that they are doing a good enough job of explaining and showing what the benefit is."
On Friday (June 13), the aquarium will hold the grand opening of the first phase of a three-part expansion.
In April, the park board voted to ask its staff to prepare a report on the aquarium's cetacean operations by July. The park board's agreement with the aquarium is up for review in 2015.
Vision park commissioner Trevor Loke, who has already been nominated for reelection, told the Straight he wants to meet with aquarium staff before "announcing" his opinion.
At a June 22 nomination meeting, Vision will add four candidates to its park-board slate.