Former mayors support Vancouver Aquarium as park board prepares for third meeting

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      On Thursday (July 31), the park board will convene for its third special meeting on the Vancouver Aquarium.

      An eight-hour session was held last Saturday (July 26), and a four-hour meeting occurred on Monday (July 28). More than 130 members of the public spoke on the topic.

      “It was the most speakers that I have had since I was elected,” said Vision Vancouver park commissioner Sarah Blyth. “I talked to Loretta [Woodcock] and she said that the last time they had people come to speak on this issue [in 2011], it was 50 people. So 132 definitely shows this is growing in the public’s view.”

      During those meetings, the aquarium presented its case for keeping whales and dolphins in tanks in Stanley Park. Dr. Joseph K. Gaydos, a practicing wildlife veterinarian, delivered the results of a study commissioned by the park board to “provide a non-biased, third party review of the Vancouver Aquarium’s captive cetacean program”. And park commissioners questioned aquarium staff about the organization's programming, research, and conservation efforts.

      Blyth, who was instrumental in putting the issue of marine mammal captivity on the park board’s agenda, said that Thursday’s meeting will see commissioners review and debate the information they’ve received, and then “probably have a series of meetings to figure out what is the best way to move ahead”.

      As the park board continues its review, four former Vancouver mayors have signed their names to letters in support of the aquarium.

      Sam Sullivan, now the Liberal MLA for Vancouver-False Creek, wrote that he is concerned changes enacted by the park board could negatively affect the aquarium.

      “Eighteen years ago the Aquarium took a principled stand as the first institution in the world to pledge to never capture cetaceans from the wild,” Sullivan continued. “That pledge means the Aquarium houses only whales and dolphins that cannot live in the wild. We believe these animals are far better off in Vancouver than they would be in other facilities elsewhere.”

      Larry Campbell and Philip Owen sent the park board letters that contained the same text as that of Sullivan’s.

      Mike Harcourt wrote a different letter in which he described the aquarium as facing “a potential ill-conceived proposal”.

      “It’s far better that the Vancouver Aquarium build on its huge success, and exciting ideas for the future, than be diverted, delayed, held up by this ill-conceived proposal,” Harcourt suggested. “A green City like Vancouver does not turn its back on nature. The conservation focussed research and direct activities that are at the core of the Vancouver Aquarium are vital to the future of the oceans, life there, and indeed – to all of us.”

      In contrast, Mayor Gregor Robertson has said he opposes the aquarium keeping cetaceans in captivity.

      “My personal view is that the Vancouver Aquarium should begin to phase out the holding of whales and dolphins,” he said in an April 9 statement emailed to media. “I’m hopeful that the Aquarium and the Park Board can work collaboratively and come to an agreement on how to achieve this with a dialogue and review that will be informed, thoughtful, and inclusive.”

      The park board’s July 31 meeting on the aquarium is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m.

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      Jamie Lee

      Jul 30, 2014 at 5:08pm

      While I find it interesting that the former Mayors have spoken in support of the Aquarium, unfortunately the question was not put to them regarding a public referendum on the issue of Whales and Dolphins in captivity. Three of these four Mayors in fact have previously supported referenda in determining citizens wishes on public interest issues. The keeping of Whales and Dolphins in captivity is without doubt a pressing and consistant issue for Vancouver voters. Former Mayor Larry Campbell supported an Olympics referendum. Now MLA Sam Sullivan supported a Wards referendum and past Mayor Philip Owen as part of the NPA majority supported a referendum on the Vancouver Zoo. It would be interesting to find out if these Mayors still believe in the principles of referenda on public interest issues.

      Peter Hamilton

      Jul 30, 2014 at 6:45pm

      Larry Campbell stated that he thought the Blackfish documentary about the US SeaWorlds was "appalling". Right! However, does he and the other former mayors understand that the Vancouver Aquarium is partners with SeaWorlds? They presently have 5 belugas "on loan" to them.
      Lifeforce has been trying to end the captivity of cetaceans for decades. That can be done by supporting Mayor Robertson and Vision to fix the Cetacean Bylaw to make sure it bans all captive cetaceans.A referendum is nonbinding and would only lead to providing cetaceans legal protection through this bylaw. The Vancouver Aquarium vehemently opposed the 1996 bylaw and got it watered down over the years. Time to outlaw cetacean captivity once and for all!

      Tommy Khang

      Jul 30, 2014 at 9:10pm

      The referendum is dead in the water, if you don't recall Gregor is not going to let it happen. So moot point.


      Jul 31, 2014 at 10:10am

      Has anyone considered how a referendum would go? Would people vote based on facts (and I don't mean propaganda from either side of the debate) or would people vote on emotion?

      I think, maybe cynically, that many of the people discussing this issue are using more emotions than facts.

      p.s. if you vote this down please add a counterpoint comment if you get a chance, I'm genuinely interested in other opinions (and facts).


      Jul 31, 2014 at 11:20am

      Cetaceans are far more intelligent than we make them out to be. We are displaying these beautiful creations of natural selection, and like humans, putting them in solitary confinement where their minds undergo a disturbing and destructive process all for entertainment and 'education'. We are a selfish and stubborn species. If we want to rehabilitate, build sea sanctuaries, hold educational and informative workshops. Target the source of the problem, please don't exacerbate it by incarcerating these archaic wonders

      Barry William Teske

      Jul 31, 2014 at 3:06pm

      "p.s. if you vote this down please add a counterpoint comment if you get a chance, I'm genuinely interested in other opinions (and facts)."

      cap·tiv·i·ty [kap-tiv-i-tee]
      noun, plural cap·tiv·i·ties.
      the state or period of being held, imprisoned, enslaved, or confined.
      1. bondage, servitude, slavery, thralldom, subjection; imprisonment, confinement, incarceration.
      1. freedom.

      And some valid emotion because its my nature...

      What if it were you held in captivity against your will but for the appearance of being a profitable success?

      sick of animal extremists

      Jul 31, 2014 at 11:11pm

      If an alien sees you, he will see a tiny person spending lots of his time in a small box (your house. room...etc) facing a smaller screen (computer, ipad...etc) for a very long time, then such person sits in a very tiny box (your car, bus, train...etc) and moves to another small box (your workplace...etc) and stays there with little movement for about 8 hours, before this tiny person is again moved by a tiny box (your car...) back to another tiny box (your house, apartment...etc) and then lies down in a very tiny rectangle (your bed) for another 8 hours and this is repeated day after day. If this alien was an activist he may believe you must be dying in your captivity life and put you in the middle of the congo jungle to restore the freedom you must be longing for. You will be left to hunt for your own food, make your own shelter, and make your own weapons to fight off predators on your own. But that is not it, this activist alien is also against breeding in captivity so you will not be allowed to sleep with your partner in the congo during your free time when you are not busy hunting for your food, fighting off lions, and trying to find a cave to hide.