Helen was found caught in a net in Japan. Her injuries were so extensive that both her pectoral fins were amputated.
Helen now lives at the Vancouver Aquarium where she is thriving under the loving care of her trainers, veterinarians and adoring guests.
Helen’s story isn’t unique at the Vancouver Aquarium, she shares her home with Chester, a false killer whale that was rescued when he was found orphaned as a new born calf. Then there are Daisy and Jack, two harbor porpoises that were both found orphaned as newborns as well.
The Vancouver Aquarium has a 59 year history of providing a home to animals in need and being a world leader in the care and display of marine animals.
A Politician Now Thinks He Knows Best And Challenges The Vancouver Aquarium
Recently Wilfred Moore, a Senator in Canada, introduced legislation that according him would “impose a federal ban on captive breeding, imports, exports, and live captures of these highly intelligent, emotional, and social creatures.”
The legislation is a backdoor effort to shut down facilities like the Vancouver Aquarium.
What Senator Moore seems to ignore is that the Vancouver Aquarium is on the cutting edge of research and care for the beluga whales and other native species in British Columbia and Alaska.
He has continued to dismiss the Vancouver Aquarium’s sterling academic and educational value by challenging the facility’s CEO John Nightingale. “I would challenge Nightingale to explain, in specific terms, the scientific purpose of breeding beluga whales at American entertainment facilities, whose purpose it is to generate a profit. I further challenge Nightingale to explain why legitimate research objectives cannot be fulfilled using rescued individuals and currently captive cetaceans,” said Moore.
Vancouver Aquarium Answers Challenge
The Vancouver Aquarium accepted the challenge by the Senator Wilfred Moore by posting their own op-ed column in the Vancouver Sun, and quickly disproved his arguments against the proposed ban on the the display of whales and dolphins.
CEO John Nightingale wrote:
“Our scientists, and visiting global researchers, have been studying the beluga whales that reside at the Aquarium for decades. For instance, the pioneering work on how mothers and their calves communicate was done at the Aquarium; it could only have been done with trained whales that could actively participate in this work.
This and many other types of research need to start in a controlled environment so scientists may create a baseline of data that is then applied to wild research. Again this summer, we are conducting wild beluga whale research in the Arctic using data gleaned from our research at the Aquarium. If we are to continue studying beluga whales, it is necessary to continue caring for a small group of these whales.”
“A key point Senator Wilfred Moore seems to be unaware of is that beluga whales are facing unprecedented changes to their environment, which is being caused by humans. Beluga whales in the St. Lawrence estuary are the most endangered in Canada, with less than 900 left, and the population is dropping at 8-12 per cent a year. This endangered population desperately needs more research and a rescue centre but there isn’t one.
It would be a far bigger contribution for Moore to use his stature to encourage the support of governments to address this critical situation. Doing so would benefit nature, the animals living there, and future Canadians.”
Wild Whales Need Your Help
Certain populations of beluga whales in Canada are endangered and need help. Instead of helping those populations in decline, the Senator Moore’s legislation would have an adverse impact on animals that are actually providing researchers valuable information that will help save the wild declining populations.
Nightingale’s statement was backed up by the Alliance for Marine Mammal Parks & Aquariums’ Executive Director Kathleen Dezio who stated,
This misguided bill does nothing to benefit whales and dolphins in the wild and would make it impossible for zoos and aquariums to continue their important rescue, rehabilitation and research work. The bill appears to be based on misinformation spread by animal rights extremists who are opposed to zoos and aquariums.
The fact is that accredited aquariums, marine parks and zoos uphold the highest standards of care in the world and continually work to enhance those standards based on the expertise of thousands of veterinarians, trainers and animal care specialists. In fact, because of the exceptional care and behavioral enrichment these institutions provide, current research shows that whales and dolphins in human care live as long as or longer than their counterparts in the wild. Dolphins in human care live almost twice as long as those in the wild. Sea lions, depending on their gender, live twice as long or longer in our facilities as they do in the wild. Beluga whales in human care live as long as or longer than their counterparts in the wild, and a new study published just last week shows that orcas in human care are living as long as their counterparts in the wild.”
Is Canada’s Future The Same As the U.K. and New Zealand?
If Canadian’s don’t speak up, the future of whales and dolphins that become stranded in Canada might face a similar fate to those in the U.K. and New Zealand. Those countries have enacted similar legislation and now there are no rescue facilities and sometimes the only option rescue workers have is to kill the stranded animal.
We would like to ask Canadian AwesomeOcean readers to please write to your Member of Parliament in support of the Vancouver Aquarium and accredited zoos and marine parks.
And we ask our readers who live abroad to support the Vancouver Aquarium and other accredited marine parks that continue to provide a home for animals in need and are helping researchers learn how they can save endangered animal populations.