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Government Secretly Approves Beluga Export Permits Before Whale Captivity Ban Becomes Law

Animal Justice May 3, 2019

OTTAWA – National animal law advocacy organization Animal Justice says the federal government should revoke or deny beluga export permits to Vancouver Aquarium and Marineland. The two aquariums are secretly attempting to ship beluga whales out of the country before commercial whale export becomes largely illegal.

Vancouver Aquarium apparently owns two beluga whales that it confines at Marineland, and has been granted permits to ship those belugas to another aquarium it runs in Spain. Meanwhile, Marineland is seeking five permits to ship belugas to unknown aquariums in the United States. Beluga whales are an internationally protected species under the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), and cannot be exported from Canada without a federal CITES permit.

Exporting beluga whales from Canada will soon be nearly impossible, with legislation to phase out whale and dolphin captivity expected to pass a final vote in Parliament within weeks. Bill S-203 will make it a criminal offence to confine whales and dolphins. Cetaceans already in captivity grandfathered in. It will also become a criminal offence to breed all whales or dolphins who are in captivity.

Bill S-203 also prohibits the international trade in cetaceans. Export will only be allowed if the government grants a special permit in best interests of the whale, or for science.

Marineland currently confines over 50 beluga whales (some are pregnant), five dolphins, and one orca. Vancouver Aquarium only has one remaining dolphin in its facility, and was banned from acquiring more cetaceans by the Vancouver Parks Board in 2017. Until now, the Vancouver Aquarium concealed from the public that it houses two belugas at Marineland, and instead said it was getting out of the whale captivity business.

Public sentiment is strongly against whale and dolphin captivity, as shown by strong support for Bill S-203, the 2017 Vancouver Parks Board prohibition on whale and dolphin captivity, and a 2015 Ontario law banning orca whale captivity.

“It is shocking that beluga export permits were issued in secret by the government on the eve of whale export being largely outlawed in Canada,” said lawyer Camille Labchuk, executive director of Animal Justice. “The public obviously has an intense interest in the well-being of beluga whales confined by Vancouver Aquarium and Marineland, yet no one was made aware of the permit applications, and the public was given no opportunity to comment on or review this disturbingly secretive, closed-door process.

“Canada is on the cusp of becoming a global leader by passing strong legislation to phase out whale and dolphin captivity, yet the export permits will allow the international whale captivity industry to continue to flourish. Beluga whales shipped abroad can be bred, with their baby belugas condemned to live in the misery of unnatural, concrete tanks and die without ever knowing the freedom of swimming in the ocean. This is completely contrary to the purpose of Bill S-203.

“Instead of allowing Marineland and Vancouver Aquarium to ship whales abroad to expand the captive cetacean industry, the government should support the Whale Sanctuary Project, which is seeking sites in Nova Scotia to build a sea-side sanctuary for retired whales and dolphins.”

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For more information, contact:

Camille Labchuk
Executive Director
camille@animaljustice.ca

Animal Justice

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B.C. Court Strikes Down Vancouver Aquarium Whale & Dolphin Ban

Animal Justice February 9, 2018

VANCOUVER – National animal law advocacy organization Animal Justice is responding to the decision from the B.C. Supreme Court quashing, in part, a municipal bylaw aimed at preventing whales and dolphins from suffering in captivity at the Vancouver Aquarium.

The Aquarium sought to overturn the Park Board bylaw passed in May, 2017 that bans confining whales, dolphins, and porpoises in Vancouver parks, including the Aquarium in Stanley Park. The Aquarium argued that it had a constitutional right to confine whales and dolphins. Animal Justice and Zoocheck focused on dismantling the Aquarium’s troubling legal claim that confining cetaceans is a form of expression protected under section 2(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The groups argued that confining whales is harmful and violent conduct not deserving of protection.

The Court decided that the anti-captivity bylaw did not apply to the Aquarium because of a licensing agreement signed between the Park Board and the Aquarium in 1999, which runs until 2029. In other words, the case hinged on an issue of contractual interpretation. The Court declined to consider the issue of free expression as it was not necessary to decide the case.

On January 18, 2018 the Aquarium announced that it would stop confining whales and dolphins after public pressure.

“The Aquarium made the disturbing claim that it has a constitutional right to keep sensitive, intelligent marine mammals in tiny tanks, a practice Canadians no longer find acceptable. The Aquarium’s freedom of expression claim could have permanently undermined animal protection laws right across Canada. We are pleased that the Court did not grant this right, and that other governments remain free to pass laws protecting animals.

“Ultimately, the Vancouver Aquarium was already forced last month to end its whale and dolphin captivity program due to public outrage over this cruel and outdated practice. A little over one year ago, there were five whales and dolphins at the Aquarium. Today, only one remains alive. We are pleased that no further vulnerable cetaceans will languish in captive misery at the Aquarium.

“The curtain is closing on whale and dolphin captivity in Canada. Senate Bill S-203, which would ban captivity and captive breeding nation-wide, is moving forward through Parliament, and just this week, the federal government introduced amendments to the Fisheries Act in Bill C-68. The bill includes a ban on capturing cetaceans for confinement and empowers the government to restrict imports of cetaceans into the country. It is clear that whale and dolphin captivity is an archaic, dying practice that will soon be outlawed.”

Animal Justice is a national animal law non-profit that leads the legal fight for animals in Canada. Zoocheck is a Canadian-based international charity that works to protect wild animals in captivity and in the wild. Animal Justice and Zoocheck were represented by lawyers Arden Beddoes of Arvay Finlay LLP, and Benjamin Oliphant of Gall Legge Grant Zwack LLP.

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The B.C. Supreme Court decision in Ocean Wise Conservation Association v. Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation 2018 BCSC 196 is available here.

For more information, contact:

Camille Labchuk
Executive Director
camille@animaljustice

Arden Beddoes
Counsel to Animal Justice
abeddoes@arvayfinlay.ca

 

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The Federal Government Wants to Ban Capturing Wild Whales & Dolphins

Animal Justice February 8, 2018

The federal government presented a new bill that updates the Fisheries Act this week, including restrictions on capturing wild whales and dolphins for the purpose of keeping them in captivity.

The amendments would still allow exceptions to rescue cetaceans who are injured, sick or requiring care, and are part of a larger set of changes which include the restoration and protection of fishes and their habitats. The government also wants to give itself the power to restrict the import of whales and dolphins into the country.

At a Vancouver press conference, Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc explained, “The public acceptance of keeping these majestic creatures in captivity has changed and we think the law should reflect that.”

We couldn’t agree more. Tens of thousands of Canadians have been demanding a ban on whale captivity, and the minister’s comments show that we’ve got the government’s attention.

But the new legislation doesn’t include a ban on breeding captive whales and dolphins—an essential part of protecting them from the cruelty of captivity. There are still dozens of captive belugas and dolphins in Canada, primarily at Marineland in Niagara Falls. If aquariums are allowed to continue breeding these sensitive creatures, it will be business as usual. Their offspring will be condemned to the misery and deprivation of life in a tiny tank.

Which is why we need Senate Bill S-203—the Ending the Captivity of Whales and Dolphins Act—to continue swimming through Parliament and become law.

Bill S-203 would ban whale and dolphin captivity across the country, end captive breeding, and ban the import and export of whales and dolphins, along with their reproductive materials.

And even though the Bill cleared the Senate Fisheries Committee last October, it has been languishing ever since. Conservative senators, particularly Senate Whip Don Plett, have been using sneaky delay tactics to stall this bill from reaching its final Senate vote.

TAKE ACTION and email Conservative leader Andrew Scheer, Conservative Senate leader Larry Smith, and Conservative Members of Parliament to demand they stop stalling and send Bill S-203 to the Senate floor.

As public support for imprisoning whales and dolphins continues to plummet, it’s only a matter of time before this cruel practice sinks altogether. Public pressure already forced the Vancouver Aquarium to give up on whale and dolphin captivity last month. Now, let’s make sure this outdated practice becomes illegal right across the country.

 

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