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SeaWorld’s historic decision is lost on Vancouver Aquarium

beluga whales iStock_000005049794MediumLast week, SeaWorld announced that, effective immediately, it is ending its orca breeding program and will be phasing out its theatrical shows involving orcas.

While this is certainly welcome news for the future generations of these whales who would have been born into a life of captivity, sadly, it amounts to little for the existing generation in SeaWorld parks, who will remain captive “for as long as they live.” Nor does it extend the same compassion to SeaWorld’s other captive cetaceans, including belugas and dolphins, who can continue to be bred in captivity and perform for audiences.

What does it mean for cetaceans in captivity at the Vancouver Aquarium? “It doesn’t change anything,” according to the aquarium’s general manager, who commented on SeaWorld’s announcement while in Spain, where the Vancouver aquarium has taken over operations of the L’Oceanografic aquarium. The marine park is the largest in Europe and has 13 bottlenose dolphins, 10 of which were caught in the wild. It also has a pair of belugas caught in Russian waters.

Despite growing criticism and a recent documentary on the subject, the Vancouver Aquarium defends its breeding programs and the keeping of cetaceans in captivity. Even Dr. Jane Goodall has voiced her opposition, calling captive breeding “no longer defensible by science.” She went on to argue that “the idea that certain cetaceans ‘do better’ in captivity than others is also misleading, as belugas, dolphins and porpoises are highly social animals which can travel in large pods and migrate long distances.”

Goodall is not alone in her opposition to the breeding and keeping of cetaceans in captivity. Senator Wilfred Moore has introduced a federal bill that, if passed, would prohibit the acquisition and captive breeding of cetaceans in Canada. We encourage you to sign and help circulate this potentially historic bill.

There is still much work to do in order to afford other animals the same freedom from exploitation, but we must recognize the SeaWorld announcement for the historical moment that it is. It serves as a testament to the power of compassionate people over corporations. Together, we can build on this momentum and work toward the inevitable day when the captivity industry is a thing of the past. Join the annual Empty the Tanks worldwide rally, taking place at the Vancouver Aquarium on Saturday, May 7th, 11am and voice your opposition to the captivity industry.