A worker at the Vancouver Aquarium performs a health check on one of the facility's Beluga Whales, in 2006.

Research would suffer if whales banned: report

Report says whale, dolphin research would suffer if they're banned from aquarium

  • Jul. 23, 2014 4:00 p.m.

By Keven Drews, The Canadian Press

VANCOUVER – Research-and-rescue work on dolphins and whales at the Vancouver Aquarium could suffer if the facility ended its captivity program, says a newly released report.

The report by University of California veterinarians and scientists was published on the City of Vancouver’s website Wednesday and comes at a time of increased public debate about keeping the animals in captivity.

In April, Vancouver city Coun. Adriane Carr said the issue should be addressed during this fall’s municipal elections, and Mayor Gregor Robertson said he’d like to see the captivity program phased out.

Park board members, who commissioned the report and oversee a bylaw that allows the aquarium to keep the animals, known as cetaceans, will consider the document during a special meeting this Saturday.

The report said the quality of the aquarium’s research and stranding-response programs could be compromised if the cetaceans were phased out.

“They would no longer be able to use captive cetaceans to learn information that could benefit the management and conservation of free-ranging cetaceans,” it said.

“Similarly, they could respond to cetacean strandings, but would no longer have an option for the long-term care of animals that could not be released back into the wild.”

The park board should consider commissioning another study that would assess the complex, ethical issues of keeping cetaceans in captivity, the authors added.

A spokeswoman at the aquarium declined comment on the report’s release, saying officials would talk about the document during the Saturday meeting.

A spokesman for Robertson said he wasn’t available for an interview and reiterated comments made by the mayor in April about the captivity program.

Aaron Jasper, the park board’s chairman, said he has not yet read the report but staff members have told him it’s balanced.

“My hope was that whatever shape the debate takes, it should always be based on facts, and people are very passionate about this issue on both sides,” he said. “I think we all have a responsibility to ensure the debate is first of all respectful but also an informed debate.”

The aquarium opened in 1956, and in 1996 adopted new standards that ended the capture of wild cetaceans.

It does house rescued animals that cannot be returned to the ocean or animals that were born in captivity, and among its current cetacean residents are two Pacific white-sided dolphins, two harbour porpoises and two belugas.

The report said the aquarium is the only facility in North America to keep harbour porpoises and has pioneered emergency care, transportation, feeding and medical treatment protocols for cetaceans that have been stranded.

The aquarium was also credited in the report for helping stranded bottlenose dolphins during the British Petroleum oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and consulting on strandings in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and Washington state.

“The average number of visitors per year was higher for institutions that housed cetaceans,” said the report, adding the aquarium reported it had 928,000 guests in 2013.

The report’s authors said the city provided them with data on 617 aquariums from around the world, some of which were temporarily or permanently closed.

In June, the aquarium unveiled a $45-million, 5,100-square-metre expansion— the most significant in its 58-year-history — that included 360-degree digital screens and a 4.3-metre glowing blue globe with the North Pole at the bottom.

Just Posted

B.C. storm totals $37M in insured damages

The December storm wreaked havoc on B.C.’s south coast

Rising construction costs boost price of Langley intersection project

Bids for Township roundabout came in well over projected costs

Langley-raised catcher to play on Team Canada at Pan Am Games qualifier tournament

Kellin Deglan is headed to Brazil at the end of the month to play ball with Team Canada

Trappers back to peak form

Langley Junior B Team aims for playoffs

WIN: Langley thespian stars in upcoming ‘psychological thriller’

Langley’s Andrew Wood plays the role of Lieutenant Walker in Night Watch.

First Nation supporters march to Horgan’s MLA office

Dozens marched across the Greater Victoria community of Langford to support the Wet’suwet’en people

Thieves steal thousands from 140 Coast Capital Savings members

Online fraud tactics included phising and ‘brute force’ in November and December

Daredevil changes game plan to jump broken White Rock pier

Brooke Colby tells council daredevil event would help boost waterfront business

Pregnant B.C. firefighter tries to save own house that caught fire

Julia Flinton and Anthony Sellars both worked on the 2017 wildfires

Crime Stoppers releases Metro Vancouver’s top 10 most wanted

The organization releases the list each year to mark National Crime Stoppers Month in January

Theresa May wins no-confidence vote after Brexit deal rejection

UK PM can keep her job, after House of Commons voted 325-306

Arrest made in 2017 Vancouver homicide

Maninder Singh Braich died after he was found at a home near Prince Albert and East 49th

Liberal candidate steps aside after singling out Jagmeet Singh’s race

Karen Wang says she made comments online that referenced Singh’s cultural background

Most Read