Vancouver Park Board chair Michael Wiebe says the Vancouver Aquarium's announced return of its beluga whale program was a surprise to the park board commissioners.

Wiebe says he is disappointed the aquarium made the announcement before a March 8 special park board meeting to explore staff recommendations on the board's options for dealing with the aquarium's retention of cetaceans.

"Staff is going to give us recommendations on what we can do regarding cetaceans," he told On The Coast host Stephen Quinn.

"Park board did change a bylaw … to no longer bring in wild cetaceans. The aquarium, right before the bylaw was enacted, came forth and said, 'By the way, we're no longer going to do that.'

"We were hoping they would do the same thing here."

The aquarium leases its land in Stanley Park from the park board and has already filed a legal challenge against the board's decision to forbid captive breeding of cetaceans, which Wiebe says is still before the courts.

Wiebe says the aquarium's court challenge has prevented the board from discussing some of these issues.

At its March 8 meeting, he says staff will be advising the board on the legal implications of any bylaw action against the aquarium, as well as the proposed plebiscite on the future of captive cetaceans.

The Vancouver Aquarium declined to comment for this story.

With files from CBC Radio One's On The Coast

To hear the full interview, click the audio labelled: Vancouver Park Board chair says beluga return announcement a surprise