British Columbia

Vancouverites should vote on captive whales, says park board chair

Vancouver Park Board chair Sarah Kirby-Yung says she will propose a city-wide vote on whether whales should be held in captivity for the 2018 municipal election.

Death of Qila reignites debate on whether the Vancouver Aquarium should hold captive whales

A two-month-old beluga whale calf swims with her mother, Qila, at the Vancouver Aquarium in Vancouver, B.C., on Tuesday Aug. 12, 2008. (Darryl Dick/The Canadian Press)

The chair of the Vancouver Park Board says a city-wide referendum should be held on whether Vancouver should allow captive whales.

Sarah Kirby-Yung says she'll be making a proposal to the board to give city residents the right to vote on whether cetaceans should be held in captivity in the upcoming 2018 municipal election.

She says making it a ballot issue is the most cost-effective way to gather opinions.

"Our responsibility is to listen to the public," she told host Gloria Macarenko on CBC's BC Almanac. "What we don't have a sense of is how residents feel, statistically, across the city."

Her pledge comes after the recent death of Qila, the Vancouver Aquarium's 21-year-old resident beluga whale. Qila's mother Aurora is also showing signs of illness in what's been a tumultuous week for the aquarium.

Kirby-Jung is also the former vice-president of communications for the aquarium. During her time there, she witnessed a live beluga birth, an experience she calls "amazing."

"Having belugas at the aquarium, and cetaceans, has provided huge benefits in terms of engaging the public and their appreciation for marine life and marine conservation," she said.

"But times do change, and I think we need to listen and be receptive to that."

"I think the responsible thing to do is to take the time to have real constructive public dialogue."

With files from CBC's BC Almanac

To listen to the full interview, click on the audio labelled: Vancouverites should vote on captive whales, says city's park board head


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