News Local

Vote on whales would hurt animals: aquarium

Jeremy Nuttall

By Jeremy Nuttall, 24 hours Vancouver

Four of the six cetaceans at the Vancouver Aquarium can’t be released into the wild. (CARMINE MARINELLI/ 24 HOURS)

Four of the six cetaceans at the Vancouver Aquarium can’t be released into the wild. (CARMINE MARINELLI/ 24 HOURS)

A referendum on holding cetaceans in captivity would only involve about six local creatures and force a diversion of funding from research and rehabilitation to wage an educational campaign, the Vancouver Aquarium says.

Vancouver Park Board voted Monday to have staff study the practice of keeping dolphins and whales in captivity. Vancouver Coun. Adriane Carr’s motion for a referendum will be heard today.

But according to fisheries authorities, four of the six cetaceans currently in Vancouver can’t be released into the wild, aquarium senior vice-president Clint Wright said. The other two were never assessed. One was born in the facility, while the other has been there since 1990. The aquarium has three other cetaceans on loan to other facilities.

The aquarium’s $100-million expansion was announced in 2011. Wright suggested people have been speaking out based on emotion, and the issue seems to pop up predominantly during election years.

“There's a lot of gut feeling, but not a lot of fact,” Wright said.

He said money spent on a referendum campaign would siphon funds away from the 100-150 animals the aquarium rescues and releases each year.

But Carr disagrees.

“If the whales can’t be successfully re-released into the wild, is it fair to bring them in and then hold them captive under conditions which are incredibly distressing to them?” Carr told 24 hours.

One alternative to not keeping the animals might be putting them down, but Carr wouldn’t commit to that as a solution — nor offer an alternative.

“That’s a question I think we need to have public debate over,” Carr said. “And that is an ethical question and that is the question that is at the core of whether you keep injured cetaceans in captivity or not.”





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