New Canadian law bans all whale and dolphin captivity

New Canadian law bans all whale and dolphin captivity
Animal welfare in tourism: Campaigners say keeping cetaceans in captivity restricts their movement and can lead to aggressive behaviour, illness and even death.

Canada has passed a new historic law, The Ending the Captivity of Whales and Dolphins Act (source), on 10 June 2019, which received Royal Assent on 21 June 2019 (source). The new law makes it illegal to breed whales and dolphins, or even keep them captive in Canada. In a watershed decision, the law goes further than current legislation, that holds people and organisations’ accountable for mistreating marine animals. The new law will make it a crime to simply keep one. 

The legislation covers all captive cetaceans, so whales, dolphins and porpoises, and establishes fines of up to $200,000 for non-compliances. In addition to the ban on owning whales and dolphins, the ban also includes a provision making their import and export illegal. The sole exception to that rule would be for scientific research, or if it’s deemed “in the best interest” of that animal. 

New Canadian law bans all whale and dolphin captivity
The legislation covers all captive cetaceans, so whales, dolphins and porpoises.

Facilities that already have marine animals, however, will be allowed to keep them under the law’s grandfather clause, but the aquariums must stop breeding them. Canada currently has 2 facilities that confine dolphins and whales in captivity. Vancouver aquarium, which has kept dolphins for more than 50 years, announced in May 2019, that it would phase out its cetacean programme by 2029 (source). Marineland, which has over 50 beluga whales, 5 dolphins and 1 orca, has taken a different approach, lobbying against Bill S-203, at every step of its way, since it was first introduced, in 2015. 

“Today’s a really good day for animals in Canada,”Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, who sponsored the bill back in 2015, told journalists in early June. “Many scientists testified to why it was critical that we stop keeping cetaceans in captivity. We understand why because they are obviously not akin to other animals, for instance, livestock. Cetaceans require the ocean, they require the space, they require acoustic communication over long distances.”

New Canadian law bans all whale and dolphin captivity

Canada joins other countries and jurisdictions that have outlawed or restricted whale and dolphin captivity. These include: California, South Carolina, Barcelona, Mexico City, Bolivia, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Greece, Hungary, India, Slovenia, and Switzerland.

Forcing whales and dolphins to perform for entertainment is also banned. 

In other news from July 2019, Virgin Holidays says that it has stopped selling tickets to captive whale and dolphin experiences, such as SeaWorld (Source: BBC News, 16 July 2019). The tour operator, part of the Virgin Group headed by Sir Richard Branson, said the move will result in more than 20,000 tickets being removed from sale, but that all existing bookings will be honoured. In a blog, Branson, said the company would now only “work with suppliers that don’t take sea cetaceans from the wild” (source).

Joe Thompson, managing director of Virgin Holidays, re-iterated this, saying: “We will instead focus our efforts on encouraging customers to see these creatures in the wild….We will also continue our efforts to support the development of sanctuaries for whales and dolphins currently in captivity.”

New Canadian law bans all whale and dolphin captivity

Thomas Cook made a similar move a year ago amid concerns about animal welfare, with campaigners saying keeping cetaceans in captivity restricts their movement and can lead to aggressive behaviour, illness and even death.

Catherine Wilson
Catherine Wilsonhttp://www.enviconsulting.wordpress.com
Catherine Wilson is a sustainability-focused social researcher and communications’ professional, and journalist. Her consultancy includes social, market and policy research, evaluating corporate CSR programmes, and developing content marketing and communications. Catherine oversaw the technical management of the ABTA hotel certification service, Travelife, and was formerly Sustainability Business Writer, and Managing Editor, at Thomson-Reuters and Haymarket Media Group. Catherine has a social research PhD in Human Geography, from Kings College London, and a MSc in EU Environmental Policy and Regulation, which included tourism, from Lancaster University. Consultancy website: enviconsulting.wordpress.com

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