The Vancouver aquarium has announced it will mount a legal challenge against the park board.
At an August 27 press conference, CEO John Nightingale said the organization will request that the B.C. Supreme Court conduct a judicial review of park board motions passed on July 31, 2014.
On that date, park commissioners in attendance voted unanimously to ban captive cetacean breeding on park board land (which includes the aquarium’s location in Stanley Park).
The park board also passed a motion that requires the aquarium to submit annual reports and respond to an “oversight committee”.
Today Nightingale argued those actions exceed the park board’s mandate.
"Vancouver Aquarium objects to the resolutions on the legal grounds that the resolutions serve no legitimate municipal purpose and are beyond the jurisdiction of the park board," states a media release.
Reached via phone while the aquarium’s press conference continued, park board commissioner Sarah Blyth said she was still working to understanding why exactly the aquarium was mounting a legal challenge.
“When I look, I see they rejected the oversight committee,” Blyth explained. “But all the oversight committee would be is transparency. So that raises the question, why are they uncomfortable with that type of transparency?”
Speaking to the Straight shortly after, parks chair Aaron Jasper would only say that the board was still reviewing the aquarium's statements.
Following the press conference, Nightingale answered questions from reporters related to the park board's ban on captive breeding. He described it as "not practical".
In the past, the aquarium CEO has gone further, calling the ban "animal cruelty".
At the same time, he has denied that any sort of organized mating is taking place.
“The park board’s use of the word breeding implies that we carry out some sort of planned, regulated or artificial reproduction program,” Nightingale wrote in an August 1 open letter. “We don’t do that at the Vancouver Aquarium.”
However, on August 6, the Straight reported that documents combined with interviews with park commissioners revealed that the aquarium has participated in organized breeding at locations beyond its walls in Stanley Park.
It assisted a U.S. facility with an application for a permit to import 18 beluga whales previously captured from the wild off the coast of Russia, those records shows. And according to U.S. court filings, those efforts were for the explicit purpose of expanding a cross-continent breeding program run by aquariums. (See "Vancouver Aquarium beluga whales used in cross-continent breeding".)
Interviewed for that story in early-August, Jasper stressed that the park board's vote banning breeding was intended to target organizaed mating programs. He called attention to one Vancouver beluga whale, Nanuq, that the aquarium has transferred via airplane to four different facilities, each time for the purpose of breeding.
The aquarium refused to grant an interview for that story.
The park board has said it will respond to the aquarium's August 27 announcement when it is able to do so. This story will be updated with that response if and when becomes available.
At the board's July 31 meeting, commissioner Niki Sharma said that while she recognized the park board's jurisdiction does extend beyond park lands, on those properties, commissioners do not want whales and dolphins breeding in aquariums.
“We feel that breeding an animal for a life of captivity without their being a sound conservation reason for that should be banned and prohibited," she explained. “Breeding animals for a life in captivity is not something that we saw to continue in our parks.”