Activists call for end to marine mammal captivity with protest inside the Vancouver Aquarium

On March 25, a small group of activists staged a rare protest inside the Vancouver Aquarium.

During one of the facility’s dolphin shows, members of a group called the Vancouver Animal Defense League (VADL ) stood in different positions amidst a crowd gathered around the “Wild Coast” exhibit and held up signs bearing anti-captivity slogans.

“Dolphins are dying to entertain you”, read one.

“Captivity is cruel,” stated another.

“Kidnapped, not rescued,” read a third.

The demonstration occurred in silence for several minutes while the dolphin show continued. Vancouver Aquarium security guards eventually showed up and calmly escorted the activists away.

A statement published on the VADL website encourages a boycott of the aquarium and encourages people to write to the Vancouver park board in support of a cetacean-free aquarium.

“People are starting to understand that facilities like Seaworld, Marineland and the Vancouver Aquarium exploit cetaceans for entertainment because it is extremely profitable, not because it's humane or beneficial to the animals in any way,” the website reads. “What kind of wildlife rescue facility or scientific research facility forces the animals to perform tricks for their daily meals?”

In past interviews, Vancouver Aquarium president and CEO John Nightingale has defended the practice of keeping marine mammals in captivity, arguing that it does good by encouraging interest in nature and conservation efforts.

“We know, from 57 years’ experience, and from in a lot of other ways as well – academic studies and what not – that seeing living animals is a spark, for many people,” he said. “It’s the beginning of awareness, interest, and curiosity, that is part of our mission. The goal is then that people become more interested…and they become more involved in what’s going on in nature and, in particular, the wet part of nature that we’re interested in.”

On February 12, the Georgia Straight published an in-depth article about the Vancouver Aquarium, marine mammal captivity, and the aquarium’s plans to increase the number of whales and dolphins that it keeps in its tanks in Stanley Park. That story noted that the Vancouver Aquarium is one of the last facilities in Canada that continues to have large marine mammals on display.

In a follow-up story, Nightingale refused to confirm to the Straight whether or not the Vancouver Aquarium is moving ahead with additional whale and dolphin exhibits, despite the fact that more than $100 million has been budgeted for its expansion project and construction is ongoing.

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Mar 27, 2014 at 1:13pm

Amazing. It takes brave people like this to expose the cruelty these animals are subject to. Good work!


Mar 27, 2014 at 2:00pm

Bravo! Someday this cruel barbaric practice will be over.


Mar 27, 2014 at 2:39pm

The $120 million dollars that the aquarium is spending on bigger pools to import more aquatic animals would go a LONG way if it were used for true conservation efforts. Imagine the habitat restoration, animal rescue and rehab and more that you could fund with that kind of money!

Not to mention there's the $20 million or so they spend every year just to keep the animals alive (except when they are dying, that is).

Mr Hollywood

Mar 27, 2014 at 5:08pm

Think in perspective. What happens when we humans live in captivity? Think about staying at work and not being able to go home forever. Doing the same repetitive thing for your employers entertainment.
Starting to feel like crap right now? Well your employer has given you food. Mmm brussel sprouts.
Still not able to escape. Mmm brussel sprouts.

All living things in this planet have feelings. Regardless of species. Take a baby from any animal and you will see anger, sadness, repent. We as humans know the feeling and we should know better. To take a life away from family for entertainment or enjoyment is wrong.

Enders Game shows this best how we as human beings are shameless towards life other than our own. This includes you and i.

LJ Jackfruit

Mar 27, 2014 at 10:01pm

Thank you for this article.
I was one of the activists present and I made this video which also shows the tiny tanks the dolphins and whales have at the Vancouver Aquarium. This is the link:

or YouTube LJ Jackfruit


Mar 28, 2014 at 1:19am

Mr Hollywood, wake up and smell the coffee, fool.

Humans ALREADY live in captivity. We are slaves to rich fools, slaves to the whims of whiny protest groups that think they are doing favours for those that cannot/do not speak for themselves. And worse yet, we are held captive by insane activists the give having liberal minds a bad name.

What's next? Are you going to INSIST that I free my feline roommate to the wild with hopes that she can defend herself after a lifetime of living with humans? Get real!! The orca and other whales you 'freed' are undoubtedly DEAD as they had no idea on how to fend for themselves.

It is often said that the squeeky wheel gets the grease, but more often enough it is REPLACED, and you can be replaced.


Mar 28, 2014 at 6:24am

if is wasn't for places like the Vancouver Aquarium brining animals like the Beluga and Dolphin into our daily lives at a young age we would still be eating them.


Mar 28, 2014 at 1:29pm

Foxxe - Your argument is rather twisted and I think you are the fool. We are not asking for people to set their dogs and cats free, they are domesticated animals, but nice try in making a really stupid point. Would you lock your cat in a cage and leave her there except when you wanted her to perform tricks? Would you be ok with the fact that doing so would likely have her die within the first year of her life? Whales and Dolphins are not domesticated animals, they have no place in an acquarium, and it is ignorant people like you that keep these places open for business.

Mr Hollywood

Mar 28, 2014 at 4:46pm

@Adam thank you for understanding unfortunately @Foxxe doesn't understand.
If orcas were domesticated everyone would want one. If a lion were domesticated everyone would want one. If otters were domesticated everyone would want one. These animals are not for us to domesticate. Oh but they were injured.. question is how were they injured? Probably by some litter man made or a boat that man made or netting that man made. You see how our interference in the animal kingdom harms them.
For example.. Tilikum who was captured by you guessed it man.
If you have watched Blackfish you will understand what we do for money.
Also notice how it shows former trainers. Because they understand it's not normal to keep wild animals in captivity for our entertainment. But you know what take your kids to Vancouver Aquarium / SeaWorld do what you want. Buy them that stuffed animal. The only animal your making happy is the people owning the Aquarium It's your life to live. I know my kids have learned animals in the kingdom don't live life Vancouver Aquarium / SeaWorld.

The Viper of Dorne

Apr 29, 2014 at 4:53pm

Relax everybody. People are way too quick to jump on something as a result of watching a documentary on Netflix...which by the way was about Seaworld and not the Vancouver Aquarium.

I was at the Vancouver Aquarium not too long ago and saw some lady holding up a sign with a picture from what I am assuming is "The Cove" and another sign beside it saying "Dolphins are Dying for your Entertainment". Seriously?? How are those two remotely similar?

I don't think that animals should be in captivity when they are fit to be in the wild; however, if they are unfit to return to the wild what is the alternative to living in the aquarium?