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Vancouver Aquarium launches legal challenge to overturn whale and dolphin ban

The Vancouver Aquarium commenced legal proceedings in the B.C. Supreme Court on Wednesday to overturn a Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation bylaw amendment that bans the future import and display of all cetaceans from the Vancouver Aquarium’s marine science centre.

The legal petition is in response to a decision made by the Vancouver Park Board in May to prohibit the Vancouver Aquarium from importing, holding and displaying cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises).

In the legal petition, the Vancouver Aquarium cited the following key concerns with the Park Board’s decision:

  • the Park Board does not have the statutory power to enact the bylaw amendment;
  • the Park Board commissioners refused to hear representations from the Vancouver Aquarium concerning the bylaw amendment, having made up their minds well before May 15;
  • the language of the Park Board’s bylaw amendment is unacceptably vague; and
  • the bylaw amendment renders the remaining phases of the Vancouver Aquarium’s approved $100-million revitalization and expansion project obsolete. ($45 million of public and private funding has already been invested to date.)

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“The ramifications and impacts of the Park Board bylaw amendment are so far reaching that they fundamentally change the Vancouver Aquarium’s ability to deliver its mission of conserving the world’s oceans. As a result, we have no choice but to defend ourselves,” said John Nightingale, President and CEO, Vancouver Aquarium.

The legal petition also details numerous adverse impacts from the Park Board’s bylaw amendment on the Vancouver Aquarium’s mandate of conservation and operations, including the loss of a long-term home for rescued, non-releasable cetaceans.

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“We cannot stand by and allow the Park Board to threaten the health and welfare of cetaceans, or develop bylaws on the fly that undermine our animal protection, conservation, research and education mandates,” added Nightingale. “We deeply appreciate the overwhelming support we have received in recent weeks from the people of Vancouver and British Columbia. We will continue to fight the bylaw amendment so we can continue to provide the programs that benefit vulnerable cetaceans, our oceans, and the broader community.”

In May, the Board voted in favour of the following provisions in regards to the bylaw amendment:

  • That no person shall bring a cetacean into a park.
  • That no person shall keep a cetacean in a park, except that this prohibition does not apply to cetaceans already in a park on [date of enactment].
  • That no person shall produce or present in a park a show, performance, or other form of entertainment, which includes one or more cetaceans.

To review the bylaw amendment in full, click here.

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