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How You Can Help Reform The Vancouver Aquarium’s Captive Whale And Dolphin Programs

<p><a class="redactor-added-link" href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/briangratwicke/">Brian Gratwicke</a></p>

In the wake of public outcry over the whales and dolphins living at Vancouver Aquarium, the city's Park Board held a formal review of the a staff report of the aquarium's operations around captive cetaceans. The review was also attended by over 130 other stakeholders and members of the public who intended to give their testimony.

The aquarium is home to two beluga whales and two Pacific White-Sided Dolphins. Its track record with belugas is particularly bad -- in the past decade alone, three captive-born calves under the age of three died at the park.

According to Park Board chair Aaron Jasper, the report was strictly a fact-finding one. After its presentation, it will be up to the board to decide a course of action, "and that could range from seeking further information as recommended by the author, or to take some definitive action with respect to the bylaws pertaining to cetaceans in captivity."

CBC's Richard Zussman was live-tweeting the meeting:

The Park Board allowed some 20 to 25 other stakeholders to weigh in:

Other stakeholders will have the chance to speak at another meeting.

The conversation was spurred by the city's mayor, Gregor Robertson, who in April called for an end to whale and dolphin captivity at the aquarium. An online petition calling for the same has already gained over 17,000 signatures.

Several conservationists have publicly encouraged the aquarium to end whale and dolphin captivity. Primatologist Jane Goodall recently sent an open letter to the facility, calling its whale programs "no longer defensible by science."

After exposing the horrific dolphin hunts that happen every year in Taiji, Japan in the Oscar-winning documentary "The Cove," dolphin trainer-turned activist Ric O'Barry of the Dolphin Project has set his sights on a new group of dolphins: those living in tanks at the Vancouver Aquarium.

In a recent letter addressed to Mayor Gregor Robertson, O'Barry and Earth Island Institute director David Phillips assert that cetacean captivity is quickly becoming a practice of the past:

"Captivity is hard on cetaceans for many reasons. Concrete pools are too small and too enervating for cetaceans to thrive, especially given that wild dolphin travel many miles each day in their natural environment. These social animals are often put in tanks with unfamiliar individuals, which can cause considerable stress and difficulties. It has been proven that many species of cetaceans die early in captivity compared to the wild."