Hold citywide vote on whales in captivity, Vancouver park commissioner suggests

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      Vancouver residents may get a chance next year to vote on a divisive issue.

      The question boils down to this: Is it right to keep cetaceans, such as whales and dolphins, in captivity?

      Green park commissioner Stuart Mackinnon is bringing forward a motion to a meeting of the Vancouver park board on Monday (July 19) suggesting a plebiscite on the matter.

      In a phone interview, Mackinnon said that the plebiscite would ask the public if it is in favour of phasing out cetacean exhibits and banning the future containment of these marine mammals on land leased by the Vancouver park board.

      The commissioner is recommending that the non-binding vote take place during the next civic election in November 2011.

      Mackinnon recalled to the Straight that in a special meeting on November 27, 2006, the board passed a motion to review the bylaw relating to cetaceans in 2015.

      “If the park is going to reevaluate the bylaw in 2015, it would be a good idea to find out what the people feel about it,” Mackinnon said.

      The death last month of Nala, a one-year-old baby beluga, at the Vancouver Aquarium has revived questions about the wisdom of keeping captive dolphins and whales for public display.

      Nala died in the evening of June 21. Her airway was found blocked by a couple of rocks and a penny.

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      Jul 13, 2010 at 5:54pm

      I hope they find a way to cast a vote like this online instead of the primitive way they went about the olympics. All voting should be done online.

      S Carr

      Jul 13, 2010 at 6:13pm

      It's just cruel, unethical and inhumane to continue to keep whales and dolphins in captivity. The cetaceans and I thank you!


      Jul 13, 2010 at 6:58pm

      No, they should just not get anymore. There has been little, if any success with releasing these guys into the wild. If they are released they will likely get depressed and die. They should in no way seek any new ones though!


      Jul 13, 2010 at 8:00pm

      People that think whales in captivity, for whatever purpose (even the "survival" of a species), is okay are morons and chumps that deserve only daily beatings and nothing else.

      I'd like to see those people keep themselves in only their bedrooms (or even just their apartments) for one month; get your friends to bring you all your necessities. See how it feels. Could you get through it without going insane and having your own physiology break down? Not likely, but if you did make it through all right, now try for life.

      tony durke

      Jul 13, 2010 at 8:03pm

      I would love it if they put it to a referendum. I think people would want the whales to be free. Aquariums are a bad idea. Watch Planet Earth and Life, by the BBC if you want to learn about animals. Power to the cetaceans!


      Jul 13, 2010 at 9:39pm

      We do not need another plebiscite which is non-binding. What we need are those running for public office to make a campaign promise to close down the Aquarium. Plus we need recall at the municipal level so if those elected break their promise the citizens can undertake recall.. In the meantime we have a chance to recall the Vision Park Commissioners in 2011. They promised in 2008 to save Mt Pleasant Outdoor Pool which once elected they reneged on that promise.

      Calvin D

      Jul 13, 2010 at 10:29pm

      Something to think about- most of these animals are injured and rescued, not captured. After being brought back to health some become so used to human company they would not be able to survive back in the wild. It would be cruel to return a domesticated animal to the wild when they have a slim chance of survival due to their contact with humans. So placing them back into the oceans is in effect, a death sentence.


      Jul 14, 2010 at 7:45am

      When we have out of town visitors they often want to see the Acquarium, including the dolphins and belugas. What effect would this referendum have on the Acquarium's operation? Have Acquarium staff been asked to address the parks board when this motion is discussed? Were they interviewed for this article?

      If it does go to a referendum I would predict the motion would fail. I think it's apparent from the crowds at the Acquarium and other similar facilities elsewhere that the demand that no whales be kept in captivity is a minority taste, driven in part by urban fashion plate politics. There are in addition traditional leftists who view the Acquarium and its staff as business lackeys because of the corporate sponsorship of some of the exhibits. What they would do if, say, the CAW sponsored a tank I don't know, but it would be interesting to find out.

      Rod Smelser

      Heather h

      Jul 14, 2010 at 10:01am

      Everyone for captivity seems to have the same argument - that releasing the currently captive ones would be a death sentence. I think it's pretty safe to assume no ones going to drop them off in the middle of the ocean and say good luck. If it were banned, they may just decide to not continue breeding them, and let the current animals remain until they die. Or they could send them off to other aquariums, which would just be another way to support the industry. The best option would be to build a sea pen in the ocean for them to retire in. Here they would still receive medical care and human interaction (if they preferred) but would be able to swim greater distances, dive to deeper depths, hear the ocean acoustics, get to use their echolocation again, and interact with the small critters swimming in and out of their pen. It would be a much more enriching and natural life than the boring, echoing, unnatural walls of a concrete tank. They could also learn to catch their own live fish, and could still be fed by humans if they aren't catching enough to properly sustain their nutrition. So, clearly this is the best option for the current cetaceans in captivity, and it can happen without any risk to the animal.