20 July 2010

Park Board votes down plebiscite on whales, dolphins at aquarium

VANCOUVER - The Vancouver Park Board has voted against holding a non-binding plebiscite on whether or not to keep dolphins and whales at the aquarium.

Officials say the final vote was two-to-five, with only Green party park board commissioner Stuart Mackinnon and Loretta Woodcock voting for the motion.

Had the motion passed, it would have created a public, non-binding vote on whether or not the aquarium can keep the animals for the fall civic election.

Park Board spokeswoman Joyce Courtney said the meeting was attended by 23 separate delegations, mostly for the motion. Courtney noted, however, that some groups, including the Vancouver Aquarium, were in opposition of the motion, which was originally brought up by Mackinnon.

The discussions were described as "very lively," and around 60 people packed into the room where the meeting was held.

Mackinnon had previously said he thinks the public is ready now to end the practice of capturing whales and dolphins for exhibition.

"My motion is about the democratic process," he said. "The board has agreed it will renew the bylaw concerning captive cetaceans in 2015, and so the referendum should be held next year."

The Vancouver Aquarium is one of the city's major tourist attractions. It is home to five beluga whales and three dolphins, and has housed as many as three killer whales.

Mackinnon's motion would have called for live shows at the aquarium to be phased out, with no new whales or dolphins captured to replace those now at the aquarium.

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