Vancouver Aquarium's research, rescue programs depend on its whales and dolphins: report

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Vancouver Aquarium dolphin

An independent report commissioned by the Vancouver Park Board has found that research, conservation and rescue work on dolphins and whales at the Vancouver Aquarium are at great risk if the institution is forced to terminate its ability to hold cetaceans.

It stated that if the cetacean captivity program were to end, the Aquarium would no longer be able to utilize the research it has learned from its dolphins and whales.

The report was created by Dr. Joseph K. Gaydos, the chief scientist and veterinarian at the SeaDoc Society Program at the University of California’s David Wildlife Health Center.

Using data from 617 aquariums around the world, the report compared the Vancouver Aquarium with the operations of other facilities around the world, especially with other similarly sized institutions in North America.

The report recommends that the Vancouver Park Board should issue a study on the welfare of captive cetaceans to evaluate the ethics associated with housing whales and dolphins at the Vancouver Aquarium. A similar multi-year study is being undertaken on captive African and Asian elephants at a cost of $800,000.

“People want to know how cetaceans in captivity are doing and the difficulty of acquiring these data has the potential to, correctly or incorrectly, lead people to believe that some institutions housing cetaceans have something to hide,” Gaydos wrote.

“In the spirit of full disclosure, the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation should acknowledge that the Vancouver Aquarium willingly provided all data requested for this report. Requesting that the Vancouver Aquarium provide an annual state of cetaceans at the aquarium report would go a long way to ensure that the public feels that data is being shared.”

However, this would likely mean funds that normally go towards research, conservation and rescue efforts would have to be diverted towards this public relations project of placating those who mistrust the facility and its staff.

The report would include information on the number and species of cetaceans being kept at the Vancouver Aquarium, including data on the number of annual births and deaths, the number of research projects and presentations that have come from captive cetaceans or have been supported by captive cetacean research, the number of wild cetacean strandings that have responded to, and the number of people that have visited the aquarium to learn about cetaceans.

The release of the report comes ahead of the special Vancouver Park Board meeting on Saturday, July 26 over the findings of the report.

The Vancouver Aquarium is also expected to make a presentation during the meeting to defend its case. It believes its very future and work it has done is at great risk.

Two of the seven Park Board commissioners have voiced their opposition to captivity.

In 1996, the Vancouver Aquarium became the first and only aquarium in the world to make a commitment to no longer capture cetaceans from the wild for display. Only animals that were born in captivity or rescued and deemed non-releasable by the federal government are kept at the Aquarium.

To read the full independent report, click here.

 

Featured Image: Vancouver Aquarium

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