26 June 2019

Vancouver Aquarium drops cetacean ban lawsuit against Park Board, signs new 35-year deal

The Vancouver Aquarium’s cetacean ban lawsuit against the City of Vancouver and its Park Board appears to be water under the bridge.

The aquarium’s parent organization, Ocean Wise, says it has signed a new 35-year licence agreement with the board and reaffirmed its commitment to no longer display whales and dolphins.

It also announced that “all legal action related to the Park Board’s May 2017 amendment to its bylaw restricting cetaceans in Vancouver parks has now been discontinued.”

The Park Board banned the keeping of whales and dolphins on its property shortly after the last two belugas residing at the facility died suddenly in 2016.

The Aquarium said in January 2018 that it would no longer display the animals, but won a court challenge a month later that found it was exempt from the board’s ban — only to have that overturned on appeal a year later.

In May this year, Ocean Wise launched a lawsuit against the city and the board claiming that the 2017 ban had resulted in millions of dollars of financial losses and was a breach of contract.

The federal government banned the keeping of whales and dolphins in captivity earlier this month.

“We both have the idea of sustainability, in mind and working towards climate mitigation and biodiversity, and this new extension, or a new renewal of our agreement, puts it all on a positive foot that we can move in tandem for the future.”

The new deal essentially extends Ocean Wise’s existing agreement with the board, which was set to expire in 2029.

The new lease agreement comes at no cost to the Aquarium for the first five years, then starts at $175,000 in 2024 and climbs by $25,000 per year until it reaches $300,000 annually.

Asked why there was no public consultation on a lease agreement that extends three decades into the future, Mackinnon said the negotiations had to be conducted privately because of the pending litigation.

In a media release, Ocean Wise said the new licencing agreement sets the stage for the organization’s new five-year vision, which will be launched in January 2020.

That plan will focus on conservation, public education, governance and research, it said.

“The new licence agreement marks the start of an exciting, new chapter in Ocean Wise’s evolution and provides the foundation for our ambitious five-year strategic plan,” Ocean Wise president and CEO Lasse Gustavsson said in a media release.

“We appreciate the Park Board’s support for Ocean Wise’s evolution and are thrilled that the Vancouver Aquarium is staying in Stanley Park, which has been its home since 1956.”

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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