Vancouver Aquarium will "likely" acquire more large marine mammals, including beluga whales

The facility will include a new whale pool in the second phase of its expansion

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      The public can expect to see new beluga whales and a new whale pool at the Vancouver Aquarium after its expansion is completed in 2017.

      In an interview this morning on the CBC Radio Early Edition show, president and CEO John Nightingale was asked point blank if the aquarium will bring in more large marine mammals.

      "The simple answer is likely," Nightingale replied.

      Before elaborating, Nightingale first emphasized to host Rick Cluff that the aquarium "is pretty well known for its excellent animal care".

      "Secondarily with a very small population of 35 belugas [in captivity] in North America, we work with all the other aquariums that hold belugas to maintain the genetic diversity," Nightingale added. "And that means that animals have come and gone from the Vancouver Aquarium since the first animals were ever there. And that will continue."

      Vancouver Aquarium officials refused to speak to the Georgia Straight in advance of a recent feature story about whether its expansion plans in Stanley Park would result in more whales and dolphins being kept in captivity.

      On CBC Radio, Nightingale likened the aquarium's 50th anniversary to what happens to human beings when they turn 50.

      "So the way I’ve told everybody about it: humans turn 50 and they head off to the eye doctor and the dentist," he told Cluff. "Aquariums turn 50; they have to deal with some rotting concrete and bad pipes. So parts of the aquarium needed the equivalent of two knees, a hip, and a quintuple bypass."

      The first phase, which will be completed in June, includes a new entrance, indoor food service, a tech-connections gallery, and a changing display hall, according to Nightingale.

      He likened the second phase, which will be completed in 2017, to receiving two knees and a hip.

      He also told the Early Edition host that part of the plan includes rebuilding old killer-whale pool, which is now part of the B.C. Wild Coast exhibit.

      "New facilities first give the animals we have much better space," Nightingale said on CBC Radio. "So the example I use is that we'll have two certified beluga pools instead of the one we have now, so that we can mix and match animals—moms and calves, keep dads away from babies—all the things you need to do in managing an animal population. And it gives the visitors a much better experience in terms of the reasons those animals are there."

      Nightingale pointed out that the Vancouver Aquarium is a nonprofit organization, unlike many other marine parks in North America.

      When asked about profits generated by the whale exhibit, he told Cluff "that's what pays for all the education, the conservation, and research work that people in the community find so valuable about the aquarium."

      "So there are no beneficial owners," the aquarium boss added. "Nobody is pocketing a lot of money. Any money that the aquarium generates from operations is exactly what pays for all the mission-based activities that people know and love about the aquarium."

      In its filings to the Canada Revenue Agency in 2012, the aquarium disclosed that one staff member was paid between $250,000 to $299,000 that year. Seven other full-time employees were paid between $120,000 and $199,000.

      The CBC Radio Early Edition podcast of Nightingale's interview is available here.




      Feb 19, 2014 at 2:02pm

      No More Dolphins! - No More Parkland!

      Public opinion is against captivity, but the Vancouver Aquarium insists on perpetuating the international marine mammal slave trade. They even deal with pro-whaling countries such as Japan. The Vancouver Aquarium continues to promote the imprisonment of intelligent, sentient creatures such as orcas by promoting Sea World. They have sent 3 belugas there. Presently, they keep 2 belugas, 2 Harbour porpoises, and 2 other dolphin species. They want up to 8 belugas and 8 other dolphins.
      Wildlife suffers physically and psychologically because their social and behaviour needs cannot be provided for in captivity. They can develop painful ulcers from the stress and die prematurely. They can be subjected to experiments. Some have been sold or traded to zoos and aquariums worldwide.
      For over 50 years, the Vancouver Aquarium didn't have any successful breeding program. Three orca babies, four beluga babies and two Pacific white-sided dolphin babies have died. As of August 2012 at least 9 orcas, 7 narwhals, 10 Belugas, and 13 Pacific white-sided dolphins have died.
      Read Facebook SADquarium

      Susan Berta

      Feb 19, 2014 at 2:13pm

      When people (or facilities) turn 50, they also should be wise enough to look back at history & see that times have changed. Things that were acceptable 50 years ago are no longer viewed as ethical or humane, & the practice of keeping whales & dolphins in tanks is one of those things that we now know is not acceptable. What researchers have learned about dolphins & whales these past decades has enlightened most of the public that these are intelligent, social, sentient beings who travel extensively in their ocean habitat, a habitat that cannot be humanely replicated in a marine park or aquarium. Even the Vancouver Aquarium realized this when they made the decision to end their practice of keeping orcas in their small pools. Now they need to take the next step, to realize times have changed even more, and the people who love whales and dolphins would rather see them in the wild, or via video or IMAX movies of them in the wild, rather than suffering in a small tank. The Aquarium needs a new director, John Nightingale is living in the past - his comments earlier this week about the 6000+ "extremists" who signed a petition asking the Aquarium to end their cetacean captivity program, proves he is stuck in an era from decades past. These 6000 people aren't extremists, they are the paying public, many of whom would likely be Aquarium visitors if they ended their captivity program. The Vancouver Aquarium isn't suffering from "rotting concrete and bad pipes" The parts needed aren't "the equivalent of two knees, a hip, and a quintuple bypass." - what the Vancouver Aquarium needs is a heart transplant - a total change of heart, and a change of thinking that will bring the Aquarium up to the present, a time when it is no longer acceptable to buy, trade and breed belugas like pawns in a game of greed.

      The Vancouver Aquarium has shown they ARE capable of good research, education, and decisions. Their hiring of Dr. Peter Ross and the establishment of an Ocean Pollution program is a wonderful service to the entire NW Region, if Dr. Ross is allowed to do the kind of research he does so well, and to share the truths he discovers. Hopefully this isn't just an attempt to Greenwash the Aquarium to get the support needed for their expansion and addition of more whales in captivity. Now that you are 50, older and wiser, please make the right decision - close down the whale tanks.


      Feb 19, 2014 at 2:15pm

      So we keep whales and other large marine mammals in prison so we can pay for executive class wages, education, conservation, and research work.

      Further, we promote breeding of these captive rescues - is not something wrong with bringing offspring into the world to keep them captive for life (and to pay for other stuff)? Or are we hiding behind the "they know nothing better" mantra?

      Humans are great at three things: greed, hypocrisy and self-delusion.

      Incredibly sad.

      Shab Amiri

      Feb 19, 2014 at 3:17pm

      Please stop keeping animals in captivity. Keeping particularly large and intelligent mammals in captivity is inhumane. It is not right to hold an animal prisoner for financial gain or any other reason. Do not collect any more belugas or other whale, or dolphin. Release the ones you already have.

      Paula Corbett

      Feb 19, 2014 at 3:17pm

      I agree fully with the other comments - most people nowadays abhor the idea of these wonderful, highly intelligent, LARGE creatures subjected to a miserable life in captivity. Years ago when the Aquarium got the green light to expand the pitifully small orca pool (against the public's opinion) the new pool was only marginally better. Regardless how big they plan on making this new pool, it is still cruel to have any beluga whale in it, not to mention more whales.
      Of course John Nightingale wants to expand - he and a handful of others make a ridiculously high wage and he likely wants to justify making more. He and the others making these high wages will have a lot to lose if the Aquarium is closed down.
      Vancouverites, over the years, have made it very clear that they are not in favour of the whales and dolphins being in captivity. I personally wouldn't have a problem if the aquarium became a "hospital" for those sea mammals that become injured in the wild and are treated there before being released back to the wild (and allow them to stay there if releasing them to the wild is not possible) but to have them captured from the wild in order to "educate" the public and pay a few greed people exorbitant wages is torture for these animals and insulting to the public.

      Lindie OBrien

      Feb 19, 2014 at 3:25pm

      Non-profit, Vancouver Aquarium? Apparently not for your highest paid employees. I guess that explains why VA's admin is so keen to expand the "facilities" & capture more cetaceans. As "the boss" said here, these hapless cetaceans will continue to come and go . . . to and from the VA. How handy that'll be for the gaping maw of aquariums around the world so greedy to add wild caught dolphins and belugas to their genetic greed pools.

      And by the way, Mr. Nightingale, I take exception to you daring to call people against the captivity of these incredible animals "extremists." What a joke. The only extreme aspect I can see in this scenario is the cruelty forced on these cetaceans by locking such far-ranging, socials beings up for life in barren tanks that can only be acoustic torture chambers for them.

      I'm a Canadian, and though I travel to Vancouver & Stanley Park 3-4 times a year, I never pay to support you in your extreme cruelty to cetaceans. Instead, I turn my head when I walk by because I'm ashamed that you exist.


      Feb 19, 2014 at 4:01pm

      It would make sense to use these existing marine mammal facilities for care of animals that are injured, sick, or bred in captivity to the point where releasing them is just going to mean a gross discovery on a nearby beach in a month.

      So if that's what's going on, that seems fair. It's also fair to charge a viewing fee.

      To breed more of these intelligent animals to appear in shows x times per week is quite different, and very nasty.

      Bella Mersea

      Feb 19, 2014 at 4:16pm

      Please give your opinion on the poll in this article. It is vitally important that the people of Vancouver are given the referendum we have continually asked for - a direct vote to either accept or reject the importation of more whales and dolphins to the aquarium. The next election is Nov. 2013 and if we do nothing, we are complicit in several more whales and dolphins dying to entertain and amuse. Cetacean captivity does not teacher conservation, it teaches objectification and disrespect of other sentient beings. Mr. Nightingale states, " "[that] clearly when you rebuild something you don't rebuild it to 30 year old standards, you rebuild it to modern standards or even future standards." I would argue the same goes for moral principles and ethics. Modern standards and future standards of humanity, Mr. Nightingale, do not include the capture, trafficking and confinement of cetaceans. If you truly want to serve the community and schoolchildren, turn the VA into a positive role model of conservation rather than an archaic prison, where you as warden get to as you say, manage "your collection." How can you say, and I quote you, "we manage our collection in the best interest of the animals, always?" Firstly, they are not a "collection", they are individual beings. And I hardly think, if one was to look at their life stories from their perspective rather than as objects in your collection, one would ethically know that being forcibly taken from your family, your environment, and held in sensory-deprivation concrete captivity is not in the best interest of any animal. How long would you survive if this was done to you? Building larger tanks are not, as you say, "all the things you need to do in managing an animal population." If not for all the challenges put on them by humans, whales and dolphins do very well at managing their own lives and population. In addition, it takes nothing more than some pretty straightforward common sense to know that conservation efforts towards belugas would be better served allowing them to create and maintain their own genetic diversity in the wild instead of this declining due to an increase in captures for aquariums.

      Denise Ainsworth

      Feb 19, 2014 at 5:23pm

      "It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!" Isn't that right Mr. Nightingale? Your views on captivity are antiquated and self-serving.

      Barb Mulholland

      Feb 19, 2014 at 5:31pm

      I am sorry, but nothing surprises me more than my hometown turning a blind eye to the cruel and inhumane treatment of whales and dolphins in captivity. By promoting the idea that these beautiful, intelligent species are required as a teaching tool, come to Vancouver Island and stand in Departure Bay and see the Orcas and Dolphins swimming free.. I tell you it is a much better experience than sitting and looking at them in a big bathtub!! and it is free!!! I will encourage all my friends and tourists not to buy tickets to your facility.. don't you realize that the world does not want any more of these creatures to suffer and we need them in our oceans.. IF OUR OCEANS DIE, SO DO WE