Vancouver Aquarium CEO John Nightingale says he's "irritated" and disappointed" over park board vote

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      The long-time head of the Vancouver Aquarium has declared that staff will not separate female and male porpoises.

      John Nightingale said this even though the park board has voted to ban captive breeding of cetaceans in the Stanley Park tourist attraction and research facility.

      This morning, Nightingale told CBC Radio's Early Edition show that two young harbour porpoises, Jack and Daisy, were brought to the aquarium as babies. He noted that they were saved by Fisheries and Oceans Canada. 

      He said they're now "best buddies" and cannot be released into the wild.

      "We're going to keep them together," Nightingale told host Kathryn Gretsinger.

      The park board has instructed the aquarium to determine how to avoid captive breeding of cetaceans.

      "What they're really telling us is 'You can figure out how not to have any breeding, which means you have to figure out how to keep Jack and Daisy apart'," he told Gretsinger.

      Nightingale said at different times during the CBC Radio interview that he's "irritated", "vastly disappointed", and "confused" by the park board's motion.

      In addition to the ban on captive breeding of cetaceans, five Vision Vancouver commissioners also voted for the creation of an "oversight committee" to keep the public informed about captivity of cetaceans at the aquarium.

      Another section of the motion instructs park board staff to work with aquarium officials "to investigate and, where viable, implement alternatives to cetacean exhibits".

      Nightingale emphasized to Gretsinger that the aquarium doesn't have a "breeding program".

      "We try and keep animals in natural groups as they occur in nature and that's most often males and females together," he said. "And mating happens. That's what healthy animals do."

      He claimed that the park board's process "panders to the activists a fair bit".

      "They say 'Stop the breeding. That will eventually get whales and dolphins out of aquariums and eventually close aquariums'," Nightingale said.

      consultant's report for the park board stated that the Vancouver Aquarium is the only facility in North America with harbour porpoises in captivity.

      The aquarium owns nine beluga whales. Five are at SeaWorld and two are at the Georgia Aquarium, with the remaining two at the Vancouver Aquarium.

      Besides the Vancouver Aquarium, six other facilities in North America keep belugas.

      Four aquariums, including Vancouver's, display Pacific white-sided dolphins.

      This week, NPA mayoral candidate Kirk LaPointe condemned Mayor Gregor Robertson for speaking earlier this year against keeping whales and dolpins in captivity in Stanley Park.

      “It is time for the expense, disruption and uncertainty to stop and for the mayor to stand down from his efforts to change policy around keeping cetaceans at the Vancouver Aquarium,” LaPointe wrote on his blog.

      NPA park commissioner Melissa De Genova was travelling and didn't attend last night's meeting.

      The only other NPA park commissioner, John Coupar, absented himself from the meeting because his employer does business with the aquarium, according to Vision commissioner Aaron Jasper.

      One of the NPA's candidates for park board in the 2014 election, Sarah Kirby-Yung, was vice president of marketing and communications at the Vancouver Aquarium from 2008 to 2010.




      Aug 1, 2014 at 9:38am

      we can only hope that one day this guy is abducted by aliens and put in a cage on Tau Ceti 4


      Aug 1, 2014 at 9:42am

      Think of how 'irritated' and 'disappointed' whales and dolphins must feel having to exchange frolicking in a vast sea for being confined in an aquarium.


      Aug 1, 2014 at 9:48am

      Vision creates a problem for the Aquarium, putting them through lots of expense, then they study the issue to gain knowledge only to create a series of new problems rather than show some real leadership rather than listening to a small group of people who have an agenda that is bad for Vancouver, the aquarium and for the whales and dolphins! Amazing that the Vision Parks board members that are for the most part leaving politics are allow to leave such a mess because they couldn't make a sensible decision.

      Tommy Khang

      Aug 1, 2014 at 10:14am

      @Mark I don't think they can frolic any more based on last night's decision, that sounds like borderline sex which according to the Vision commissioners is no longer kosher for the animals. Is Vision now the anti-whale sex party?

      Alan Layton

      Aug 1, 2014 at 10:31am


      Maybe you should ask the NPA commissioners why they didn't put up a stronger defense of the aquarium at the meetings. Whoops! That's right, they weren't there.

      S. Richard Hayes

      Aug 1, 2014 at 10:34am

      This guy is interested in the glory and the money. If animals are healthy put them in the wild. They are not his personal pets. At the least bring them in for a short period of time and release them. Release Nightingale permanently!

      Three more months...

      Aug 1, 2014 at 10:45am

      ...and then we can turf Vision out on their collective asses and hope that they don't breed in captivity or otherwise. What a poor decision. They allow the ongoing display of cetaceans (which by the way is the right call for theses creatures that would have been food for orcas long ago but instead go a long way toward making people think about our oceans and how best to preserve these vital environments) but then the park board mandates that they should not be allowed to breed which is the most overwhelming natural urge for any mammal after breathing drinking and eating. Can't help but shake my head at these people and their thought processes. Please restore some sanity and sound judgment to city hall and the park board come Novermber.

      Fustrated 'couverite

      Aug 1, 2014 at 11:54am

      Activists are unbelievably unreasonable. They can never see the forest, just the trees.

      Lack of Vision

      Aug 1, 2014 at 12:36pm

      This decision is mind-numbingly stupid. How a group of half-witted third rate politicians are able to stand in judgement over Canada's leading Marine Science centre beggars belief. The Vancouver Aquarium is the real advocate for the whales in Canada's Arctic and elsewhere, and dedicates thousands of hours and millions of dollars to actually trying to help the wild Beluga populations through essential research and increased public awareness. In contrast, the activist "advocates" are anything but - their misguided uninformed "advocacy" does nothing to help the broader whale populations that are under increasing threat from climate change and pollution but instead, hampers those who are actually making a difference and trying to help.

      Sarah B

      Aug 1, 2014 at 12:56pm

      Maybe an examination of the language is in order? The head of VanAqua has an interest in muddying the waters, so to speak. A "breeding program" is not breeding, full stop. I'd be interested in hearing from John Nightingale on the differences between a breeding program and breeding and when VanAqua stopped the former. They don't need to give cetaceans condoms, they just have to not attempt to breed them to continue having exhibits in their very profitable zoo.

      Charlie, do you think you can get him on the phone again? I'd like to hear an on the record absolute statement regarding this.