Vancouver park board votes to support ban on display of whales and dolphins in Stanley Park

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      After decades of activism, animal-rights advocates have finally convinced the Vancouver park board to put an end to showing live whales and dolphins on its property.

      Commissioners voted unanimously tonight for a motion to ask staff to draft an amendment to the parks control bylaw and report back by May 15. The amendment would prohibit the importation and display of cetaceans in its parks.

      The motion was introduced by Green commissioner Stuart Mackinnon.

      Many in the gallery responded with a standing ovation as they realized that the board was no longer going to allow whales, dolphins, and porpoises to be kept in Stanley Park.

      The vote prompted the CEO of the Vancouver Aquarium, John Nightingale, to leave the meeting without speaking to reporters.

      Prior to the board's decision, there were 64 speakers registered, though not all of them showed up.

      The issue of whales in captivity gained prominence in November after the last two belugas at the Vancouver Aquarium died, reportedly from stomach problems.

      Four other cetaceans associated with the facility had died over the previous two years, including a harbour porpoise and two belugas on loan to SeaWorld facilities.

      Following the death of the most recent whale, named Aurora, the Vancouver Aquarium said it would bring up to five belugas to its Stanley Park facility.

      Tonight's vote could kibosh that plan.

      When the staff brings forward the amendment, it would go to a public hearing. After that, the commissioners would vote.

      The park board gains its authority from the Vancouver Charter, which is provincial legislation.

      Section 489 gives the board powers over "establishing, maintaining, and operating in any of the parks places for the confinement, exhibition, and accommodation of animals, fish, birds, reptiles, and other creatures which may be objects of interest to the public".

      In light of tonight's vote, there's nothing stopping the Vancouver Aquarium from appealing to the province to narrow or nullify the park board's powers through an amendment to the Vancouver Charter.

      If this were to occur, it could clear the way for the Vancouver Aquarium to resume displaying belugas in Stanley Park.