Park board rejects proposed plebiscite on whale captivity at Vancouver Aquarium

Vancouverites may have to wait until 2015 to vote on whether or not whales and dolphins should be kept in captivity at the aquarium in Stanley Park.

The city's park board has rejected a proposal from Comm. Stuart Mackinnon to hold a non-binding plebiscite on captivity during the 2011 civic election.

At a meeting yesterday (July 19), the board voted 5-2 against the plebiscite motion, with only Mackinnon and Comm. Loretta Woodcock in support.

Board chair Aaron Jasper said the public should have a say on the captivity issue, but not until 2015 when the board has agreed with the Vancouver Aquarium to conduct a review.

Jasper added there was worry support for Mackinnon’s motion could lead to a lawsuit that would place a burden on taxpayers.

In a phone interview today with the Straight, Jasper also questioned whether a non-binding plebiscite is the best way to gauge opinion.

“Is a simple yes or no on such a complex issue the best way to go about it?” he said.

The Vancouver park board’s decision received a mixed response.

Janos Mate of Whale Friends says in a statement today the board missed a historic opportunity by voting against the plebiscite.

“Vancouver could have signaled the beginning of the end of the era of keeping intelligent, sentient being imprisoned for fun and profit,” Mate says.

But John Nightingale, Vancouver Aquarium president, says in a statement today he was pleased with the park board vote.

“The majority of people in Vancouver and the Lower Mainland support the aquarium having whales and dolphins in Stanley Park,” Nightingale says.

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