Park commissioner Sarah Blyth questions future of captivity at Vancouver Aquarium

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      On Facebook, Vision Vancouver park board commissioner Sarah Blyth has announced she is not seeking reelection or running for city council in this November's civic election.

      But that's not all Blyth said in her statement, posted today (March 4). The former park board chair wrote (this is a straight-up cut-and-paste):

      One last thing,,

      Though I believe in the conservation and animal rescue efforts of the Vancouver Aquarium a great current example is Walter the Sea Otter that got shot and is now blind and has no where to go and its great he has a life at the aquarium, there are many stories like Walters. I do believe its time to have a serious conversation about breeding in captivity and capturing wild and free mamals. With all of the knowledge we have Im not sure if its the right thing for Vancouver anymore. 

      The Vancouver Aquarium is located in Stanley Park, which is overseen by the park board. With an expansion underway, the aquarium is likely to bring in new beluga whales, which are mammals, in the coming years.

      Earlier this year, current park board chair Nikki Sharma told the Straight's Travis Lupick that the city’s agreement with the aquarium will be reviewed in 2015.

      So, the "serious conversation" referred to by Blyth will probably happen then, if not during this fall's election.




      Mar 5, 2014 at 8:59am

      Commissioner Sarah Blyth is correct that citizens must have a discussion regarding the Aquarium expansion and keeping whales and dolphins in captivity. The best method to determine public opinion is by holding a public referendum in the November 2014 municipal election. This will not cost the taxpayers any extra money as the question can be placed on the electoral ballot. Ms Blyth and her Vision colleagues have gone on public record as not favouring a referendum. One has to ask the question why? And if not a referendum how does one have any serious discussion regarding the barbaric practise and Aquarium history of keeping whales and dolphins in captivity?

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      Stuart Mackinnon

      Mar 5, 2014 at 1:25pm

      I thank Ms. Blyth for her 6 years of service to the City. While we did not agree on many issues when I also sat on the Park Board during her first term, I acknowledge the time and commitment she put in during her terms, especially as Chair.

      As she leaves she questions the efficacy of keeping whales in captivity. I only wish she had done so when I brought a motion for a plebicite on this issue to the Board five years ago. The motion was defeated with Ms. Blyth and her Vision colleagues voting against it.

      It is not too late to put such a question on the ballot this November. I am sure Ms. Blyth is not the only Commissioner who feels this way, just as I'm sure the citizens of Vancouver would like to have their say as well.

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      Jeff Matthews

      Mar 5, 2014 at 5:02pm

      A Vancouver Aquarium that has distanced itself from the cruel practice of keeping cetaceans in captivity and that is 100% focused on the rescue and rehabilitation of marine wildlife would be the crown jewel in Stanley Park and something ALL Vancouverites could be proud of.

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      Annelise Sorg

      Mar 5, 2014 at 5:21pm

      The "serious conversation" with the Vancouver Aquarium in regards to whale captivity referred to by Commissioner Blyth on her Facebook page, will NEVER happen if Vancouverites are not given a chance to have a say in a public referendum vote that should be held during the November 15th municipal elections.

      Commissioner Blythe voted against a motion to hold such public consultations back in 2010. However, since she is now publicly opposing the importation and breeding of more beluga whales and dolphins, we urge her to propose a motion to send this issue to a public referendum vote.

      The current Park Board Chair and Commissioners are blatantly ignoring public sentiment, which obviously opposes whale captivity. Don't ignore Vancouverites any longer! This is the time to act.

      If a newly elected Park Board is left to renegotiate with the Vancouver Aquarium its rental agreement in 2015, I can assure you that those negotiations will take place behind closed doors and the Aquarium will continue to bring more whales and dolphins to fill those newly expanded tanks, and their coffers as well.

      Don't be fooled! More tanks always means more whales...and more whales always means more money.

      The only chance Vancouverites have to help stop the importation and breeding of more beluga whales and dolphins is if Commissioner Blythe actually proposes a motion to allow the public to have a say, and then if the rest of the commissioners approve holding a whale referendum vote in the November 15 municipal elections.

      I am certain that Commissioner Blythe is fully aware that this is the case. I am also certain that because she is not seeking re-election, she might be able to bravely go against the mighty aquarium and its powerful allies in city hall and Vancouver's big business community.

      We expect our elected officials to represent us Vancouverites, not big business. We urge the Park Board and City Hall to stop ignoring their responsibilities and allow us to have a say in regards to whales and dolphins imported into our heavily subsidized public aquarium located on public land.

      It's the right thing to do, but will the municipal government do it? Please Commissioner Blythe, take action and propose a motion to hold a whale referendum vote.

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      Darla Briggs

      Mar 5, 2014 at 5:35pm

      I've written letters to the Aquarium in the past expressing that I would continue to be a member for their 4D Theatre & educational exhibits but I can no longer support them if they continue to collect whales and dolphins. I do not want to teach this selfish cruelty to my child. The Aquarium should continue to be involved with the environment like their shoreline cleanup and sustainable seafood (Oceanwise) but they need to also teach compassion. They've refused to change their ways so I would hope that the public can be heard on this matter.

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      Daylon Payne

      Mar 5, 2014 at 6:03pm

      I applaud you on your bravery and on the idea that you seek this change as do millions around the world. Please help us and hold a referendum in November to allow the public to vote

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      Eric Draven

      Mar 5, 2014 at 6:58pm

      I think commissioner Sarah Blyth is totally right. As Vancouver moves to be the world's greenest city we need to seriously talk about keeping cetaceans for entertainment purpose. I think Vancouverites deserve the right to express themselves on this very imporant issue. We could be leading the path moving away from entertainment to rehabilitation, further improving our world leading image.

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      Janos Mate

      Mar 5, 2014 at 11:13pm

      In 1991, as the Aquarium went to kidnap three beluga whales from their families in the waters off Churchill, Manitoba three of us protested this barbaric act by locking ourselves in cage in front of the Aquarium and fasting for 36 hours. The message was simple. Keeping intelligent sentient beings like whales and dolphins in captivity in concrete tanks is no different than keeping humans in a cage.

      In 1999 the caged protest lasted for 6 days and nights, and drew public attention to the plight of Bjossa, an orca whale, who had languished in captivity for over 20 years in the Aquarium after being kidnapped off the shores of Iceland. That protest reflected public opinion against the cruelty of cetacean imprisonment in Stanley Park. Bjossa was sick and the public was sick off her inhumane treatment. Seeing the writing on the wall the Aquarium shipped Bjossa to another marine prison, Sea World in San Diego, where she died six months later. That ended orca captivity at the Vancouver Aquarium which, by the way, was the first institution in the world to capture orcas for profit.

      Now the Aquarium plans to breed more dolphins and belugas for a lifetime of captivity. Since there is no scientific or educational value to such breeding, the breeding will be done for one reason only, profit. Profit that will be derived from tourism and from selling these poor beings to other marine parks. The Vancouver Aquarium plans to maintain the cetacean captivity program and the accompanying "marine slave trade" in perpetuity.

      The question is how long will the citizens of Vancouver continue to tolerate such inhumane activity in the heart of the city. And how much longer will the Park Board remain complicit with this barbarism by denying the right of citizens to have direct say on this matter through a referendum.

      Those opposed to cetacean captivity have been calling for a democratic vote for over 20 years. The Aquarium has steadfastly opposed such a referendum. Why is that?

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      Mar 6, 2014 at 4:08am

      Free the animals that are wild!

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      Mar 6, 2014 at 8:31am

      I support Sarah Blyth's call for a referendum regarding cetaceans in captivity.
      With the information we now have about animal intelligence and the effects of captivity, it is time to rethink the Vancouver Aquarium's activities.

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