Featured Image Credit: Jennifer Gauthier
By Eva Gruber
Public perceptions of aquariums are generally favorable, but since the release of “Blackfish”, the general trend has fallen somewhat, and a small but vocal minority of anti-captivity advocates are gaining notoriety. Captivity is a tricky, sensitive subject that has a lot of nuance, but when it comes to the captivity of rescued/injured/sick marine mammals, that nuance leans more toward the benefits of captivity on the rehabilitation of the animal.
A public survey conducted by Angus Reid Forum panel conducted May 2 to 3, 2017 has surprising results. 95% of Vancouver residents are in support of Vancouver Aquarium’s marine mammal rescue and rehabilitation program. Not only that – which seems quite self-evident – but that the Aquarium should provide care and shelter for rescued animals if Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) (the Canadian equivalent of the US’s federal Fish and Wildlife Service) determines that the animal cannot survive in the wild.
Further, 94% of British Columbians and 95% of Metro Vancouver residents are in support of the Vancouver Aquarium continuing to care for the rescued marine mammals that currently reside at the facility, as these animals are unfit to survive in the wild.
This survey has come about, polling public perceptions of marine mammal captivity, as the Vancouver Park Board is evaluating proposed legislation to ban captivity from Stanley Park, a 405-acre public park where the Vancouver Aquarium is located. The ban would mean that Vancouver Aquarium could no longer provide long-term homes for rescued marine mammals.
Dr. Martin Haulena, Head Veterinarian at the Vancouver Aquarium, is concerned that the ban would have a “devastating impact on current and future injured, sick or orphaned cetaceans.” He sees the survey results as proof that the public overwhelmingly is in support of the Aquarium’s rescue and rehabilitation efforts.
This facility is in fact the only facility in Canada which has the ability and resources to provide the extensive and specialized care that cetaceans require. The DFO governs and continuously appraises the impact of the program, and has the final say in whether an animal can or cannot be released back into the wild. If the facility were to be banned from keeping cetaceans, the chance of euthanizing injured/sick animals would increase – most of the public would prefer for the animal to be kept at the Vancouver Aquarium than be euthanized.
The public survey shows that the public would not be happy to see the ban go into effect. In addition, the public has sent over 11,000 letters to the Park Board in support of the Vancouver Aquarium. The Park Board now has proof that they are completely going against what the public and the scientific community believes. It is possible now that with the survey results, the Board will now reconsider their proposed ban.