A reformed dolphin trader says that the Vancouver park board has lost a valuable opportunity to listen to what people have to say about keeping cetaceans in captivity.
Christopher Porter, who was in the dolphin-export business for nine years till he had a change of heart in late 2009, told the Straight today (July 21) that a plebiscite could have brought into the open bigger issues like the importance of preserving the wild.
“We need to start managing the world’s oceans as if it was the aquarium and not the small aquarium in parks,” Porter said in a phone interview from Victoria.
He said he worked in the “captive industry” for 21 years. Porter noted that six to seven years of his experience was spent as “head trainer” at the Vancouver Aquarium during the 1990s.
“We don’t have much of a wild left and we need to start focusing more on the world instead of talking about building better aquariums,” he said.
Porter’s previous base of operations for exporting dolphins was the Solomon Islands, east of Papua New Guinea in the Pacific Ocean.
Sometime in late 2009, he was trying to separate two young dolphin calves from their mother. He noticed that although the young mammals were old enough to be on their own, they continued to nudge their mom like they were still babies, and it appeared that they wanted to stay as a family. That’s when Porter realized that he didn’t want to stay in the business anymore.
“It’s always—for the most part—you always knew that you’re doing something wrong,” Porter said. “They’re such intelligent animals that you know that a life in the wild with their own populations, and their own species, and their own habitat would be much better for them.”
Porter has released many of the dolphins he has kept before. He said that he still has seven mammals remaining in his Solomon Islands facility.
Updates on Porter’s activities are posted on www.freethepod.org/.