How we’re protecting Canada’s captive beluga whales
Last year, Canadians made history in advocating for greater protection for whales, dolphins and porpoises. Together, we’ll continue to make a difference in 2020
In 2019, thousands of you supported our work to end cruel cetacean (whales, dolphins and porpoises) entertainment in Canada by writing letters to your MP and the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans. And in June, Canadian MPs listened and responded by passing Bill S-203 to ban the breeding, display and trade in cetaceans for the purposes of entertainment.
We applauded Canadian parliamentarians that voted in favour of this bill and celebrated it as an important milestone. However, with more than 3,603 cetaceans suffering in 355 facilities in 58 countries, we fully recognize there’s more work to do to stop the cruel exploitation of these magnificent mammals for tourism.
Protecting the spirit and intent of Bill S-203
Under Bill S-203 – the Ending the Captivity of Whales and Dolphins Act, cetaceans can only be imported and exported with a permit approved by the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans for the purpose of scientific research, if it's in the best interest of the animals.
The law and the permitting process is now being tested. In October 2019, Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut applied for a US permit to import five beluga whales from MarineLand in Ontario. Unlike Canada, the US has a proper process for notifying and hearing from the public before granting a permit. Through this process we have learned that Mystic Aquarium intends to keep these belugas on public display and will not restrict breeding. World Animal Protection joined 10 other animal protection organizations in submitting a strong and united opposition to the permit application.
As far as we know (since this information is not publicly available), MarineLand has yet to apply for a Canadian permit to export these five beluga whales but we have wasted no time in speaking on behalf of these animals. We’ve urged Canada’s Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, Bernadette Jordan, to deny their application, if and when she receives it, based on what we’ve learned from the US import application. We cannot allow these whales to be shipped to another tourist facility that can’t abide by Canadian regulations and in the best interest of the animals.
Isn’t any venue better than MarineLand?
While the belugas at MarineLand are overcrowded, they have been in these conditions for some time. The process of shipping these whales to a new environment could cause a significant amount of stress for the animals. Mystic Aquarium is already at capacity with eight belugas and its tanks are even smaller with a depth of only 16.5ft – the same depth as the belugas are long.
We know that Mystic Aquarium has also stated their intention to study the belugas, but if the scientific research is important for the purposes of improving the welfare of cetaceans, there should be no reason why it couldn’t be conducted at MarineLand. This would eliminate the need to transport the animals, and would ensure that the animals are not bred as there is legislation here to prohibit it.
Thanks to the Animal Welfare Institute and Animal Justice for spearheading our joint submissions and to all of our supporters who sent letters to Minister Bernadette Jordan. We also asked the Minister to establish a transparent, evidence-based process for assessing permits, in consultation with independent scientific experts to determine what’s in the best interest of the animals’ welfare. We were pleased to receive a response from her saying that they are currently developing their policy and permitting process, and that our views will help inform that work. We will continue to be involved, and share updates as we receive them.
You can help
While this cruel entertainment is now banned here in Canada to protect future generations of dolphins, whales and porpoises, there are thousands of cetaceans suffering in hundreds of venues around the world. Make the pledge to be an animal-friendly traveler and avoid participating in any cruel animal entertainment.