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.
A new study just published in Marine Mammal Science by Kelly Jaakkola of Dolphin Research Center and Kevin Willis of Minnesota Zoo, compares survival rates and life expectancies for bottlenose dolphins in zoological facilities -v- wild populations.
The study claims that “Survival rates and life expectancies for dolphins in US zoological facilities today are at least as high as those for the wild dolphin populations for which there is comparable data.” This raises the question if, as the public display industry claims, their animals receive the best food, veterinary care and treatment and are removed from threats which their counterparts in the wild face, why are survival rates in captivity not significantly higher than in the wild?
With dolphins and whales in captivity showing signs of stress-related diseases, aggression, abnormal stereotypical behaviour (including gnawing on rails, tank walls/sides and even self-mutilation), it is apparent that evidence of survival does not equal evidence of good welfare or indeed, that facilities are able to adequately meet the complex needs of these marine mammals.
Parques Reunidos has been fined 800 Euros for keeping dolphins in ‘human wave pool’ for months – the depth was less than two metres and had no shade for the animals.
In 2017, we reported that eight dolphins had been transferred from Selwo Marina, Malaga to other Spanish facilities owned by the company whilst work was carried out to their tank – two were transferred to Madrid Zoo, and six were transported to Aquopolis, Tarragona. As there was insufficient space for the animals in the existing dolphin tank at Aquopolis, the decision was made to house the six dolphins in the human wave pool.
The fact that Parques Reunidos allowed the dolphins to be housed in such sub-standard conditions for four months, reflects badly on what the company considers to be acceptable welfare standards for the temporary housing of dolphins.
Dolphinaria-Free Europe member One Voice has launched a campaign #ALifeForInouk, having commissioned a report from marine biologist Ingrid Visser and scientists John Jeff and Jeffrey Ventre.
Inouk is a 20 years old male orca, detained at Marineland Antibes, in the South of France. He is detained in pools that are less than 5 times his length and as is commonly seen in male captive orcas, he has a collapsed dorsal fin. Ingrid Visser notes that to see this in orcas who are in the wild is rare, and “associated with poor health and trauma”. Inouk also developed stereotypical behaviour such as swimming in circles however, what is of most concern is that he has also developed an oral stereotypy. This means he bites on everything he can from ‘toys’ placed in the tank to the tank walls themselves. This must cause the orca considerable discomfort as oral pain is the same for orcas as it is for humans. In the report the writers state that they have never seen an orca’s jaw in such bad shape, the orca now having lost all of his teeth.
“In summary Inouk suffered and likely continues to suffer from tooth loss tooth fracturing and from teeth with exposed pulp. Inouk likely suffers from acute and chronic stressors associated with unnatural confinement. In effect, he has a reduced quality of life due to captivity.” Ingrid Visser, John Jett, Jeffrey Ventre
One Voice filed a complaint against Marineland for acts of cruelty towards Inouk and has also launched a petition to speak out for this orca.
Despite international support against the closure of Petition 1853/2017 for Morgan the orca, we have received news from DFE member Free Morgan Foundation (FMF) that the European Parliament Petitions Committee has ruled it be closed.
It is not only deeply concerning but inexcusable that the Petitions Committee appear to be unconcerned that the Commission never answered questions put to them by the Chair of the Petitions Committee in relation to Loro Parque breeding from Morgan, especially when this appears to have been a blatant breach of the permit conditions.
Dolphinaria-Free Europe will continue to support all efforts being made on Morgan’s behalf by FMF. In the meantime, Loro Parque released a blog in which they appear to be lacking any moral compass claiming this as a victory for them. Having taken receipt of a wild-caught orca and now using her to replenish their gene pool with no-one making them answerable for their actions, the loser certainly in this case is Morgan.
Dolphinaria-Free Europe welcomes the news that Flemish Minister for Animal Welfare, Ben Weyts supports the phasing out of dolphin captivity in Belgium.
Commenting on a recent current affairs program The Seventh Day, the politician put over his views that the keeping of dolphins confined for entertainment purposes is unacceptable and would like Boudewijn Seapark’s breeding program to end and no future permits authorised to import dolphins.
Currently, the public can interact with the dolphins however from Autumn this year, changes in legislation will mean that this will no longer be offered to visitors. Furthermore, by 2026 the facility will also need to provide the dolphins with outdoor space.
Boudewijn Seapark is the last remaining dolphinarium in the country, currently holding eight bottlenose dolphins (a mix of wild caught and captive bread) and at least 30 dolphins have died at the facility.