Park Board releases draft amendments to Park Control bylaw governing cetaceans

“The Park Board voted unanimously to amend the Park Control bylaw after discussions with aquarium staff, extensive public consultation, and a thorough review of marine science and best practices in aquariums around the world,” said Chair Wiebe.

May 10 2017 –

The Vancouver Park Board released a report outlining draft amendments to bylaws governing importation and display of live cetaceans at the Vancouver Aquarium in Stanley Park.  The recommended amendments provide for the continuing care and display of the three existing cetaceans at Vancouver Aquarium, but prohibit any performance or show.

The report was released as part of the regular Board agenda package available to the public in advance of the regular Board meeting of May 15. If the amendments are approved on May 15, the Board will consider the enactment of bylaw amendments at that time.

“The Park Board voted unanimously to amend the Park Control bylaw after discussions with aquarium staff, extensive public consultation and a thorough review of marine science and best practices in aquariums around the world,” said Park Board Chair  Michael Wiebe. 

At a special public meeting on March 9, 2017, elected Commissioners directed staff to amend the bylaw in order to prohibit the importation and display of live cetaceans in Vancouver parks. 

Proposed draft bylaw amendments

The proposed draft bylaw amendments reflect the Board’s direction to ban the importation of all cetaceans into Vancouver parks however acknowledges the need to address the current cetaceans already in residence at the Vancouver Aquarium.  

The existing Parks Control bylaw sets the conditions under which cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) can be acquired and kept in parks. Under section 9 (e) it’s stated that no person shall bring into any park, or otherwise keep or maintain in any park, any cetacean which has been captured or taken from the wild except: 

  • Captive cetaceans caught from the wild prior to September 16, 1996, and cetaceans born into captivity at any time
  • Cetaceans which are already being kept or maintained in a park as of September 16, 1996
  • A member of an endangered cetacean species, provided that approval for bringing it into a park has first been obtained from the Park Board
  • An animal that has been injured or is otherwise in distress and in need of assistance to survive or rehabilitation, whether or not the intention is to release it back into its natural wild habitat

The recommended amendments to the existing bylaw are:

  • That an expanded definition for “cetacean”  be added to the definitions in section 1.
  • That “no person shall bring a cetacean into a park”.  The current bylaw included this provision however it contained exceptions that allowed for importation under certain circumstances. The proposed amendment will not allow any cetacean importation into Vancouver parks, no exceptions.
  • That “no person shall keep a cetacean in a park” except for “cetaceans already in a park” as of the date of enactment.  The proposed change considers the tree existing cetaceans at the Vancouver Aquarium and will not require their removal.
  • That “no person shall produce or present in a park a show, performance, or other form of entertainment which includes one of more cetaceans”.  This new clause is proposed in consideration of the three cetaceans at the Vancouver Aquarium and the limited options currently available for housing them, while supporting the Board’s intent regarding display.  The three cetaceans can remain on display. They cannot be included in shows or performances of any kind.

View the complete staff report on Cetaceans in Vancouver Parks Bylaw Amendment  

Cetaceans at Vancouver Aquarium can stay

Upon the date of enactment of the new bylaw, the three existing cetaceans are grandfathered and do not need to be removed from the Vancouver Aquarium.  By grandfathering the existing cetaceans in Stanley Park, they can remain on display for the public however their presence cannot include performances of any kind.

If the bylaw amendments are enacted by the elected Park Board on Monday, May 15 they will become effective immediately. 

Park Board supports Marine Mammal Rescue Centre

The Park Board continues to express its support for the important and excellent work by Vancouver Aquarium staff and volunteers in the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre run at a facility outside of Stanley Park. The proposed bylaw amendments will have a minimal impact on the program, as most of the rescued mammals are harbour seals.  As confirmed by the Aquarium, cetaceans represent a tiny percentage of all of the marine mammals rescued since the program began. 

Stanley Park under Park Board jurisdiction

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