Vancouver Aquarium plans to fight park board's whale and dolphin ban in court

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      The Vancouver Aquarium is upping the ante in its fight against last month's park board ban on the display of cetaceans in public parks.

      According to a statement on the aquarium website, it has filed a judicial-review application against the amendment to the parks control bylaw.

      The park board has also banned all whales, dolphins, and porpoises from being imported into public parks.

      The legal petition names the park board and the City of Vancouver as respondents, alleging that the park board did not have statutory authority to amend the bylaw in this way.

      It also alleges that park commissioners "refused to hear representations from the Vancouver Aquarium concerning the bylaw amendment, having made up their minds well before May 15".

      Moreover, the aquarium claims that the amendment's language is unacceptably vague.

      In addition, it alleges that the park board's vote "renders the remaining phases of the Vancouver Aquarium’s approved $100-million revitalization and expansion project obsolete".

      Section 489 of the Vancouver Charter gives the park board "the power to provide for 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 addition, the Vancouver Charter states that the park board "shall have exclusive possession of, and exclusive jurisdiction and control of all areas designated as permanent public parks of the City".

      The Vancouver Aquarium's main operations are inside Stanley Park, which is on federal land but which is governed by the park board. 

      None of the aquarium's allegations have been proven in court and the city and park board have not yet filed responses to the petition.

      “The ramifications and impacts of the Park Board bylaw amendment are so far reaching that they fundamentally change the Vancouver Aquarium’s ability to deliver its mission of conserving the world’s oceans," Vancouver Aquarium president and CEO John Nightingale said in a statement. "As a result, we have no choice but to defend ourselves."

      He also alleged that the park board's actions "threaten the health and welfare of cetaceans" by impairing the aquarium's ability to raise funds for its marine-mammal rescue program.

      It's not the aquarium's first legal challenge against the park board. In late August of 2014, Nightingale held a news conference to announce that his organization was seeking a judicial-review of an earlier park board ban on captive cetacean breeding on park board–controlled land.

      The aquarium's last two remaining belugas, Aurora and Qila, died in its Stanley Park facility in November.

      That came three months after a harbour porpoise named Jack died.

      In February, Nightingale said that the aquarium planned to expand its captive-cetacean program by bringing in as many as five beluga whales that it owns but which are currently on loan to U.S. facilities.