15 July 2010

It’s Time for a Plebiscite on Captive Cetaceans

The latest death of a beluga whale calf in June 2010 at the Vancouver aquarium has brought up once again the topic of cetaceans in captivity. According to the LifeForce Foundation, at least 36 cetaceans, including 9 orcas, 7 narwhals, 8 belugas and 12 Pacific White Sided Dolphins have died at the Vancouver Aquarium. The academy award winning documentary film, The Cove, has brought to the world’s attention the industrial killing and capture of dolphin populations, while the Vancouver Province newspaper on June 23, 2010 wrote, in an editorial, that the public are calling into question the wisdom and morality of keeping captive cetaceans that otherwise deserve to be born, live, and die in their natural environment. In the editorial, the writer says, "the latest in a long line of whale deaths at the aquarium — this time one-year-old beluga calf Nala — calls into question the wisdom and morality of keeping captive whales and other large marine animals. It is a practice that must end."

This debate is not new. Recent history goes back to the 1990's. A history of the debate is summarized by the group Whale Friends:

"Many citizens in Vancouver have for decades been advocating for the phase out of cetacean captivity in the Vancouver Aquarium. Many also call for an end to all marine mammal captivity in Stanley Park.

The Park Board has received over twenty thousand signatures asking for a city wide referendum on the question of phasing out the cetacean captivity program of the Vancouver Aquarium. In addition, opinion polls have indicated that the majority of citizens in Greater Vancouver oppose keeping these intelligent beings in captivity.

Being respectful of the spirit of citizen involvement in our municipal democracy an NPA dominated Parks Board in 1996 decided that should the Aquarium request permission to expand in Stanley Park, a city wide referendum would be held. In the same spirit of the civic democracy, a COPE dominated Park Board in 2005 decided that the question of phasing out cetacean captivity in Stanley Park should be put to a city wide referendum. Unfortunately, in 2006, the last NPA Parks Board … rescinded both of those earlier decisions."

I believe the citizens of Vancouver have the right to express their views on this controversial issue. At the July 19th meeting of the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation I will be bringing a motion proposing that a plebiscite be held during the 2011 Vancouver civic elections, asking the public if they are in favour of phasing out existing exhibits that contain cetaceans, on land leased from the Vancouver Park Board. I believe the people of Vancouver have the right to choose. I believe this plebiscite is the right thing to do.

The meeting will be held Monday night at the Park board office: 2099 Beach Avenue. To speak you must register before noon on Monday by calling: 604-257-8451


  1. Hi Stuart

    When is the meeting for this motion? and its location?

    I would like to support this cause.

  2. I've posted the information in the article now. The meeting starts at 7 pm. Be warned that this may go very late as quite a few people may sign up to speak.