Dozens of speakers voiced their thoughts on the Vancouver Aquarium's controversial captive whales and dolphins program Monday evening, at what was the second special meeting convened by the Vancouver Park Board.
Originally, 133 members of the public signed up to speak on the issue, with around 80 addressing the board for three minutes each over the course of two nights.
Daylon Payne used her time to deliver an online petition with 16,500 signatures against keeping the cetaceans in tanks.
"This is the voice of the public. The public is where the aquarium sits, it is on public ground. The public should be having the right to say what they do want and what they don't."
One of those who spoke in favour of keeping the program was UBC researcher Andrew Trites.
"There are lots of questions we have about the nutritional needs of mammals and why some populations are increasing or decreasing, and we can only answer that by observing animals in human care."
Aquarium could sue for costs
Staff from the aquarium also spoke at the meeting on Monday, including CEO John Nightingale, who said if the Park Board votes to ban whales and dolphins in tanks, the aquarium will take legal action to recover some of the costs of its recent $50 million expansion, which was approved by the board in 2006.
Board chair Aaron Jasper expressed disappointment at Nightingale's comments.
"I think it is unfortunate that Dr. Nightingale would make those statements. In our discussions... I have tried to portray to him I am trying to be an honest broker."
Jasper says he hasn't yet decided how he will vote on the issue, but says all options are being considered.
The aquarium is licensed by the Park Board. Current policy is not to capture mammals for captivity, but to breed cetaceans that are already in the aquarium's care.
Rescued marine mammals considered unfit to be released back into the wild are also keep at the aquarium.
A third special meeting will be held Thursday to allow board members to discuss the statements made at public meetings, but the board has not said when a decision will be made on the issue,
On Saturday, after the board released the results of an independent study of the programs, 48 members of the public were allowed to speak for three minutes each on the issue.
Many speakers were convinced that putting cetaceans in glass tanks is outdated and cruel, and while others asserted that studying the animals in captivity is critical to their survival.