Canada aims to ban keeping whales and dolphins in captivity

Canada is moving toward a future where whales and dolphins are no longer kept in captivity thanks to a new bill that is closer to becoming law.

Only one park, known as Marineland, in the country has more than one cetacean in captivity.

Overall, the park owns 55 beluga whales, one orca and five bottlenose dolphins.

Dolphins and whales are vulnerable due to overhunting and climate change. Video footage of dolphin and whale slaughters have led to protests for governments to do more to protect these intelligent creatures.

In the United States, pressure has been building against SeaWorld to release their remaining cetaceans into the wild where they belong. Congress is also pushing a bill that would protect right whales in the North Atlantic.

Meanwhile, a Japanese court is hearing a case against dolphin and whale hunting.

And now Canada is making a strong move of their own by passing a bill that would ban whale and dolphin captivity.

First introduced in 2015, S-203 passed in the Commons fisheries committee last month and appears headed for final victory in a bipartisan effort to save the environment and protect vulnerable species.

“The bill is a simple and straightforward one,” Independent Senator Murray Sinclair said. “It works from the presumption that placing these beautiful creatures into the kinds of pens that they have been kept in is inherently cruel. This is necessary because, in the long run, our society will be much better off if we start to treat other creatures in the same way that we ourselves feel that we should be treated.”

Animal Justice executive director Camille Labchuk hailed the progress and pointed out the support from people outraged by how these animals are treated in the wild and in captivity.

“I am delighted that the Liberals resisted pressure to kill the bill,” she said. “I think the reason they were convinced to save this legislation is because of the power of Canadians who contacted these politicians in droves. Probably over 20,000 e-mails and phone calls were made in the days proceeding this vote. This is something Canadians across the country are really ready for. They’ve seen Blackfish and The Cove, they understand that whales and dolphins shouldn’t be kept in tanks anymore — those in the wild travel vast distances, dive deeply, live in complex family structures and enjoy a quality of life that is much better than the abject misery and barrenness of living in a tank.”

Canada has a chance to show the United States and other nations around the world how governments should treat our ocean-dwelling friends. And as ocean ecosystems show increased signs of vulnerability, we are going to need every last whale and dolphin in the fight to stave off collapse.

Featured Image: Wikimedia

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Stephen D. Foster Jr.

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