British Columbia

Cetacean vote: Fate of whale rescues at Vancouver Aquarium to be decided

Commissioners are expected to vote on amendments to bylaws that would prevent whales from being brought into the aquarium.

Amendment to bylaw would ban any new cetaceans, even injured ones

Jack the harbour porpoise died in August, 2016 after living at the Vancouver Aquarium since 2011. (aquablog.ca)

The Vancouver Park Board is expected to vote Monday night to amend a bylaw that would ban bringing any new cetaceans into the Vancouver Aquarium, even injured or endangered ones.

The proposed bylaw will "prohibit the importation and display" of live cetaceans — porpoises, whales or dolphins — at the aquarium.

The commissioners are also expected to approve the new changes.

John Nightingale, CEO of the aquarium, has argued the bylaw could be harmful as even whales in distress would not be allowed in to the aquarium.

Officials with the Vancouver Aquarium say if Vancouver Park Board commissioners vote on Monday, May 15, 2017, to prevent the facility from housing even injured or endangered whales, it will mean job losses. (CBC)

"I think they'll probably pass it," said John Nightingale, CEO of the aquarium.

"I think the politicians have kind of boxed themselves into a corner, and despite 94 per cent public support for keeping the rescue program. I think they'll eliminate it."

Rescue and release

If the latest amendments are approved, the aquarium will still be able rescue cetaceans, but will have to find somewhere else to keep them.

"The Vancouver Park Board wants to continue our efforts to work with the Vancouver Aquarium moving forward and the commissioners are 100 per cent behind the marine mammal centre," said Park Board chair Michael Wiebe who supports the ban.

The Marine Mammal Rescue Centre is used to treat sick and inured marine mammals, but not house them.

Nightingale says if the new changes are approved it will mean job losses and a major restructuring of the aquarium.

Monday's park board meeting will begin at 7 p.m. PT.

with files from Jon Hernandez and Yvette Brend.

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