Feds making it harder to keep whales, dolphins, and porpoises in captivity


The Canadian government is making it more difficult to keep cetaceans, including whales, dolphins, and porpoises in captivity.

 On August 20, Bernadette Jordan, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans, and the Canadian Coast Guard, launched a 90-day online public consultation regarding policies that implement legislative changes to the Fisheries Act, which came into force in 2019.

These policies will provide guidance for Jordan to grant or deny authorizations related to:

  • specific circumstances under which a whale, dolphin or porpoise may be taken it into captivity;
  • the import or export of living whales, dolphins or porpoises, as well as their reproductive materials, into or out of Canada;
  • scientific research involving whales, dolphins or porpoises; and
  • circumstances in which a whale, dolphin or porpoise may be kept in captivity for their health and well-being.

This new legislation imposes a very specific set of circumstances in which whales, dolphins and porpoises, as a last resort, can be removed from their natural habitat--they come as a result of June 2019 amendments made to the Criminal Code and Fisheries Act, which were intended to end the captivity of these animals.

Currently, there are only two aquaria in Canada that house cetaceans--the Vancouver Aquarium in Vancouver B.C., and Marineland in Niagara Falls, Ontario.

The Vancouver Aquarium has a single, 30-year-old Pacific White-sided dolphin. In January 2018, the Aquarium announced it would no longer hold cetaceans in captivity for public display, with the exception of its one remaining dolphin.

Marineland has one Orca whale, five Bottlenose dolphins, and a population of more than 50 Beluga whales currently in captivity.

“Like Canadians across the country, our Government understands that whales, dolphins and porpoises should be enjoyed in the wild, not on display behind glass walls," Jordan said in a news release.

These new policies will help end their captivity across the country and ensure those already in captivity will not be imported or exported into or from Canada, unless it is in the best interest of their health, welfare, or for strong scientific reasons," she continued.

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