It has been revealed that Vancouver Aquarium plans to export two beluga whales which it owns and are currently held at Marineland, Niagara to L’Oceanogràfic in Valencia, Spain. The Spanish park is owned by Parques Reunidos but managed by Vancouver Aquarium.
Banned from acquiring more cetaceans by the Vancouver Parks Board in 2017, the Aquarium currently holds only one lone dolphin. The two belugas in question were not reported in the 2014 Park Board meetings when the disclosure of whale inventories was imposed on the Vancouver Aquarium, so why has no mention of these animals been made until now? Marineland has also applied for five permits to ship belugas to marine parks in the USA, but the state of the application or the exact facilities are unknown at this point, as both the Fisheries and Marineland has refused to comment.
It can be no coincidence that these moves are being proposed ahead of the final vote in the Canadian Parliament on Bill S-203, which will ban the keeping and breeding of dolphins and whales in captivity in Canada, the result of which is expected within weeks. Bill S-203 bans imports and exports of dolphins and whales with exceptions only for scientific research or “if it is in the best interest” of the animal, this would be judged at the discretion of the Minister. The bill also includes a ‘grandfather clause’ for those animals already in facilities in Canada and permits legitimate research, as well as the rescue of animals in distress.
Margaux Dodds, Campaigns Director for Marine Connection and Chair of Dolphinaria-Free Europe comments; “The fact that Fisheries and Oceans Canada has agreed to allow this export without any public consultation just ahead of this vote is deeply concerning, as is the fact that these whales were never mentioned in previous inventories presented to the Park Board. This surely has to raise the question of whether Vancouver Aquarium does indeed own these belugas or are simply acting as brokers for the transfer of these whales between L’Oceanogràfic and Marineland?”
In the meantime Marineland, which currently holds 1 orca, 5 bottlenose dolphins and 53 beluga whales, in an effort to prove their commitment and position with respect of the whales which they hold and to address issues facing the species in the wild, recently released their Statement of Principles on Whales details of which can be found here.