Is It Time to Empty the Aquarium’s Cetacean Tanks?

Vancouver joins cities around the world in a one-day protest of cetaceans in captivity.

June 5, 2015

Tomorrow’s Empty the Tanks protest, timed to coincide with free-the-whale demonstrations in 55 cities around the world, comes just a week after the Vancouver Aquarium announced that it will keep Chester, a rescued false killer whale, in captivity.

On May 25, a panel of Fisheries and Oceans Canada experts determined that Chester could not survive in the wild after “extensive contact with humans.” Stranded on North Chesterman Beach in July of last year, he was found severely wounded by rescuers who were unable to find his mother. At the aquarium, he takes a place vacated by Hana, a dolphin kept after becoming entangled in a fishing net 12 years ago. She died on May 24.

The aquarium has long stated that whales and dolphins in captivity provide critical research opportunities “to help wild populations facing unprecedented change. Some of these science needs would be impossible to achieve in the wild.” CEO Dr. John Nightingale points to the case of Levi, a rescued harbour porpoise, that was the first porpoise in Canada to be successfully rehabilitated and reintroduced to the wild, with the aquarium’s rescue team giving him a second chance at life.

Annelise Sorg, president of Vancouver’s No Whales in Captivity and an organizer of this third annual Empty the Tanks protest, says the difference between capturing animals and true rehabilitation is found in the intent: “If you are putting ‘rescued animals’ on show in galleries to make money, and using human interaction to train them, was the intent to rehabilitate really ever there in the first place?”

Empty the Tanks takes place outside the aquarium from 11 am to 1 pm on June 6.

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