Vancouver Aquarium, Ontario’s Marineland shipping beluga whales out of country

A new federal bill banning whale and dolphin captivity is nearing law

Marineland in Niagara Falls, Ont., on August 14, 2017. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tara Walton)

Two major Canadian tourist attractions are sending beluga whales outside the country as a new federal law looms that would ban exports on marine mammals, The Canadian Press has learned.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada said it has approved permits for Marineland to move two belugas from the Niagara Falls, Ont., facility to Oceanografic in Valencia, Spain. The Vancouver Aquarium says it owns the two marine mammals that are being cared for by Marineland, and operates the Spanish park where they’re being transferred.

READ MORE: New trial ordered over banning whales, dolphins at Vancouver Aquarium

“These two aquarium-born belugas will receive exceptional care at Oceanografic, where they will join a small social grouping of whales already in care there,” Vancouver Aquarium said in a statement, adding that the deal would not cost the Spanish facility any money.

Marineland has also applied to move five more belugas to the United States, but neither Fisheries nor Marineland would divulge where in the U.S. they’re headed if the permits are approved.

“Our Marine Mammal Welfare Committee, which includes independent, accredited experts, recently recommended that Marineland Canada re-home some of our beluga whales to accommodate belugas we expect to be born in 2019 and 2020,” Marineland said in a statement.

“Relocations to the United States are being undertaken to ensure that the best care possible is provided for our beluga whales.”

Neither facility would identify which belugas were being moved, nor how long the two facilities had this arrangement.

The moves come as a new bill banning whale and dolphin captivity is nearing law — its third reading in the House of Commons is set for debate next week.

“Our government agrees that the capture of cetaceans for the sole purpose of being kept for public display should be ended,” said Jocelyn Lubczuk, a spokeswoman for Fisheries Minister Jonathan Wilkinson.

The bill bans imports and exports of the mammals with exceptions only for scientific research or “if it is in the best interest” of the animal, with discretion left up to the minister, thereby clamping down on the marine mammal trade.

It will also change the Criminal Code, creating new animal cruelty offences related to the captivity of cetaceans. It also bans breeding.

The bill 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.

Both Marineland and Vancouver Aquarium said the anti-captivity bill had nothing to do with their decisions to move the whales.

“The decision to move them was made in their best interest, not because of politics,” the Vancouver Aquarium said.

The Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation passed a bylaw amendment in 2017 banning cetaceans being brought to or kept in city parks after two beluga whales held at the aquarium died. The aquarium, which is located in Stanley Park, announced last year that it would phase out whale and dolphin display.

There are currently no whales at the Vancouver Aquarium.

Liam Casey, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Guns, taxes, climate change and more at Armstrong forum

The five federal candidates in the North Okanagan-Shuswap engaged with the public Wednesday night

Art After Dark may spark romance in Vernon

Vernon Public Art Gallery makes art accessible through alt-date night

‘Fuel Good Day’ pumps funds for local causes in the Okanagan

10 cents of every litre pumped at the Regional Co-ops on Tuesday was donated to non-profits

16 pot shops green-lighted by Vernon politicians

More recreational cannabis stores could be sprouting in town soon

Fines urged for owners who let their Vernon property go to ‘Sh**sville’

In dealing with former Legion building, city looking at options

Third instance of Trudeau in skin-darkening makeup emerges

Another instance of Trudeau using makeup to darken his face has emerged, within 24 hours of the first

Liberal B.C. candidate’s campaign signs vandalized after Trudeau brownface photo bombshell

Kelowna-Lake Country Liberal candidate Stephen Fuhr said the incident was very unfortunate and continues to support Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

‘This is not a drill’: Whistler Blackcomb gets first snowfall of the season

The 7th Heaven Summit had a dusting of snow Tuesday morning

Legislature gifts, clothing, travel need better control, B.C. auditor says

Audit follows suspensions of managers by Speaker Darryl Plecas

Photos surface of Conservative candidate at B.C. event with people in blackface

The controversial “Black Peter” character has been a feature at Sinterklaas celebrations

Summerland cadet earns glider wings

Summer training program was held at CFB Comox on Vancouver Island

$13 million Kelowna cannabis facility deal terminated

GTEC Holdings did not give a reason for the purchase’s cancellation

Arrest made after fourth threat closes a Kamloops high school in nine days

Mounties have been chasing down a series of threats made to schools across Kamloops

Most Read