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Important law: Canada bans capture and breeding of dolphins, whales

14 June 2019

On Monday, the federal government passed a bill which would phase out the practice of housing cetaceans - such as whales, dolphins and porpoises - at aquariums and theme parks, although those now living in a facility will be allowed to stay.

The BC SPCA applauded the move by the federal government.

Currently, there are just two facilities in Canada with cetaceans in captivity.

The bill was endorsed by a coalition of more than 20 leading marine scientists and stakeholder organizations including Humane Society International/Canada, Animal Justice, Humane Canada, marine scientists Dr. Lori Marino and Dr. Naomi Rose of the Whale Sanctuary Project, Ontario Captive Animal Watch, Phil Demers, the former head trainer at Marineland, World Animal Protection, Dr. David Suzuki, the Jane Goodall Institute, among others.

Animal rights activists, who have long argued that containing marine mammals and training them to entertain amounts to cruelty, celebrated the news, tweeting under the hashtags #EmptyTheTanks and #FreeWilly. There are some limited exceptions. "Cetaceans require the ocean, they require the space, they require acoustic communication over long distances", Green Party Leader Elizabeth May said in an interview with The Canadian Press.

Now that it's been passed in the commons and after being passed in the Senate back in 2015, the bill must gain "royal assent" in order to officially become law. The bill is also known as the "Ending the Captivity of Whales and Dolphins Act" or "Free Willy" bill.

The bill exempts the whales now at Marineland and it "acknowledges the educational role of Marineland by prohibiting entertainment only exhibits while continuing to enable Marineland's Academic Displays", the park talked about.

"Nothing fantastic ever happens in a hurry", animal activist group Human Canada posted on Twitter. "This is news to splash a fin at", Humane Canada wrote.

Marineland, meanwhile, has told the government it has more than 50 belugas at its facility.

Demers, who is now involved in a legal battle with Marineland, said he hopes Canada's law sparks movement on the issue in other nations. Two will be sent to Spain, approval has been received, and five more are planning to export to the United States. "We're proud of our work, and our contribution to research, education, and conservation".

Important law: Canada bans capture and breeding of dolphins, whales