Park Board amending bylaw to prohibit cetaceans at Vancouver Aquarium

March 10 2017

"My fellow Commissioners and I unanimously supported changing the bylaw to prohibit the display of cetaceans at the Aquarium," said Park Boar Chair Wiebe.

Park Board office

The Vancouver Park Board directed staff last night to amend a park bylaw (307 KB)  that pertains to cetaceans in city parks in order to prohibit the importation and display of live cetaceans in Vancouver parks.

The Board asked staff to bring forward the amended bylaw for review no later than May 15, 2017. 

The Park Board, along with applicable provincial and federal laws pertaining to cetaceans, permits and regulates Aquarium activities in Stanley Park.

How the decision was made

The decision by Board Commissioners came after two nights of special public meetings. Sixty-four people registered to speak about the issue of cetaceans at the Aquarium.

Commissioners chose the bylaw amendment option over three other options that were presented in a staff report (268 KB) , including one calling on City Council to include a plebiscite in the 2018 municipal election.

"My fellow Commissioners and I unanimously supported changing the bylaw to prohibit the display of cetaceans at the Aquarium," said Park Boar Chair Wiebe. "This is a historic decision following many years of debate about cetaceans in Vancouver.

"We applaud the valuable work by the Aquarium in public education and conservation and look forward to continuing our strong partnership into the future."

History of cetaceans at the Aquarium

The Aquarium currently has three cetaceans in captivity:

  • Helen, a Pacific white-sided dolphin
  • Daisy, a harbor porpoise
  • Chester, a false killer whale

All three cetaceans were rescues. There are currently no captive beluga whales in Vancouver, but the Aquarium recently announced its intention to bring five belugas currently on loan in the United States back to Vancouver upon completion of the new Arctic pools in 2019.

The bylaw amendment would prevent the return of these belugas for display at the Aquarium.

Five Aquarium-owned cetaceans have died in the last two years. Beluga Nanuq (on loan to SeaWorld in Florida) died in 2015, as did Hana, a Pacific white-sided dolphin. The recent, as yet unexplained, deaths of 21-year-old beluga Qila and her 30-year-old mother Aurora have renewed calls for a review of captive cetaceans at the Aquarium. The Park Board has seen protestors at recent Board meetings and has received thousands of submissions from the public on this issue.

About the lease with the Aquarium and of Stanley Park

The Park Board has a long-term lease with the 60-year-old Vancouver Aquarium to operate within Stanley Park. The Aquarium has operated under a legal agreement with the Park Board since 1956. The current lease runs to 2029.

Stanley Park is owned by the Government of Canada and leased in perpetuity to the City as a park. City Council has designated Stanley Park as a permanent public park under the Vancouver Charter. The Park Board has exclusive jurisdiction and control over Stanley Park.