August 13, 2020

One Sad Reopening

With phase three of the reopening in Ontario, I think we are all a bit happier. The reopenings that have allowed me to get a haircut, sit on a patio, and safely shop for the things I need have been very welcome.

One reopening that was not welcome was MarineLand.  No, everyone does not love MarineLand. In fact it remains an anathema to animal welfare: a symbol of the sad reality of animals in captivity. 

You may remember the passage of Bill S-203 in June, 2019: “An Act to amend the Criminal Code and other Acts ending the captivity of whales and dolphins,” often referred to as the “Free Willy Bill.”  The Bill’s passage was a welcome but long-overdue initiative to end the capture, breeding and display of cetaceans — whales and dolphins — in Canada.

At the time of the passage of S-203, only two facilities in the country kept cetaceans in captivity: Vancouver Aquarium and MarineLand. Vancouver Aquarium has announced they are getting out of the business of cetaceans. MarineLand fought the Bill all along the way and the legislation grandfathers their business model. So, MarineLand is reopening, with its 53 whales housed in small tanks, performing for the tourists to sell tickets to profit the park’s owners.

Some have argued that these acts teach us about the natural world. They teach us nothing. There is nothing natural about a dolphin trying to balance a ball. It merely demonstrates, to children especially, that exploiting animals is acceptable.

There is an alternative. Sea Life Trust has opened an ocean sanctuary for beluga whales off the coast of Iceland. Just last Sunday, two beluga whales, Little Grey and Little White, from a Shanghai aquarium have returned to the sea in the sanctuary. The two 13-year-old females, left behind their previous lives entertaining visitors. This is the first time the two have been in the sea since they were taken from a Russian whale research centre in 2011.

Sea Life Trust hopes to create a model for rehoming over 300 belugas currently in captivity. It is estimated that MarineLand has 51 of the 300.

What can you do? It’s simple. Vote with your feet and your wallet. Don’t go to MarineLand. 

Bruce Roney
President & CEO