The city of Vancouver has become the latest place to step up the fight against keeping large marine mammals in captivity.
The ban is the result of a vote taken by the Vancouver Park Board and prevents the Vancouver Aquarium, which sits on park land, from bringing in any new dolphins, whales, and narwhals.
While no more cetaceans can be brought in, even if injured or rescued, the aquarium will be allowed to keep the 3 it already has.
Public opinion on keeping these animals in captivity has changed massively since the 2013 release of the film Blackfish, and the science backs up how people feel.
Vancouver Humane Society spokesperson Peter Fricker told the BBC, “there’s substantial scientific evidence that cetaceans do suffer in captivity, and that outweighs the benefit of putting them on display for our entertainment.”
Of course, the Vancouver Aquarium disagrees, with CEO John Nightingale highlighting the work their Marine Mammal Rescue Program does in caring for animals that cannot be released back into the wild.
Of the ban, he told the BBC, “It turns its back on some of the marine animals in need when they are in need.”
The vote to ban the introduction of more cetaceans at the Vancouver Aquarium came about when 2 belugas died within days of one another in late 2016.
Michael Wiebe, chair of the Vancouver Park Board, ultimately summed up the feelings of his peers when he said, “I believe it is time to move on.”
The news from Vancouver comes hot on the heels of France issuing a similar ban on the keeping of all whales, dolphins, and porpoises in captivity, aside from any orcas and bottlenose dolphins already held.
Direct contact with the animals, such as swimming with dolphins, has also been outlawed and pools that hold those still in captivity must be significantly enlarged.
The country also banned the breeding of dolphins and orcas in captivity.
While the association of French zoos complained they had not been consulted, animal rights activists celebrated what they called a “historic French advance.”
Vancouver and France are just one city and one country respectively, but the moves are part of a wider shift in the public opinion and social acceptability of keeping these wonderful creatures captive.
The aquariums cannot be shut down overnight, but by banning new animals from being introduced, regulators are hoping we’re now seeing the last generations of captive cetaceans.
Even SeaWorld, who with 12 parks across the US stand to lose the most should this industry end, have taken a step in the right direction.
In 2016, the company announced it was ending its captive orca breeding program.