Vancouver Aquarium CEO John Nightingale says he's "irritated" and disappointed" over park board vote
The long-time head of the Vancouver Aquarium has declared that staff will not separate female and male porpoises.
John Nightingale said this even though the park board has voted to ban captive breeding of cetaceans in the Stanley Park tourist attraction and research facility.
This morning, Nightingale told CBC Radio's Early Edition show that two young harbour porpoises, Jack and Daisy, were brought to the aquarium as babies. He noted that they were saved by Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
He said they're now "best buddies" and cannot be released into the wild.
"We're going to keep them together," Nightingale told host Kathryn Gretsinger.
The park board has instructed the aquarium to determine how to avoid captive breeding of cetaceans.
"What they're really telling us is 'You can figure out how not to have any breeding, which means you have to figure out how to keep Jack and Daisy apart'," he told Gretsinger.
Nightingale said at different times during the CBC Radio interview that he's "irritated", "vastly disappointed", and "confused" by the park board's motion.
In addition to the ban on captive breeding of cetaceans, five Vision Vancouver commissioners also voted for the creation of an "oversight committee" to keep the public informed about captivity of cetaceans at the aquarium.
Another section of the motion instructs park board staff to work with aquarium officials "to investigate and, where viable, implement alternatives to cetacean exhibits".
Nightingale emphasized to Gretsinger that the aquarium doesn't have a "breeding program".
"We try and keep animals in natural groups as they occur in nature and that's most often males and females together," he said. "And mating happens. That's what healthy animals do."
He claimed that the park board's process "panders to the activists a fair bit".
"They say 'Stop the breeding. That will eventually get whales and dolphins out of aquariums and eventually close aquariums'," Nightingale said.
A consultant's report for the park board stated that the Vancouver Aquarium is the only facility in North America with harbour porpoises in captivity.
The aquarium owns nine beluga whales. Five are at SeaWorld and two are at the Georgia Aquarium, with the remaining two at the Vancouver Aquarium.
Besides the Vancouver Aquarium, six other facilities in North America keep belugas.
Four aquariums, including Vancouver's, display Pacific white-sided dolphins.
This week, NPA mayoral candidate Kirk LaPointe condemned Mayor Gregor Robertson for speaking earlier this year against keeping whales and dolpins in captivity in Stanley Park.
“It is time for the expense, disruption and uncertainty to stop and for the mayor to stand down from his efforts to change policy around keeping cetaceans at the Vancouver Aquarium,” LaPointe wrote on his blog.
NPA park commissioner Melissa De Genova was travelling and didn't attend last night's meeting.
The only other NPA park commissioner, John Coupar, absented himself from the meeting because his employer does business with the aquarium, according to Vision commissioner Aaron Jasper.
One of the NPA's candidates for park board in the 2014 election, Sarah Kirby-Yung, was vice president of marketing and communications at the Vancouver Aquarium from 2008 to 2010.