National animal law organization Animal Justice is applauding the Senate for passing Bill S-203, the Ending the Captivity of Whales and Dolphins Act in Canada. If passed, Bill S-203 would outlaw keeping whales and dolphins in tiny concrete tanks for display.
After years of delay and obstruction, the legislation passed late on Tuesday evening in a surprise vote, and will now move to the House of Commons where it will be sponsored by Green leader Elizabeth May. Bill S-203 was originally introduced by Senator Wilfred Moore in December 2015, then sponsored by Senator Murray Sinclair after Senator Moore retired.
Conservative Senate Whip Don Plett repeatedly used procedural delay tactics to slow down the legislation. Fed up with his efforts to block Bill S-203 from reaching a final vote, MPs from all parties joined Animal Justice and Humane Society International at a press conference in June to call for an end to the stalling tactics.
“Canadians understand that whales and dolphins are complex, intelligent beings who deserve far more than a life of boredom and misery in captivity,” said lawyer Camille Labchuk, executive director of Animal Justice in a statement. “That’s why Bill S-203 has attracted such tremendous support from the public as well as politicians from all parties. Animal Justice is calling on the House of Commons to swiftly pass this groundbreaking measure to protect whales and dolphins. Canada has some of the worst animal protection laws in the western world, but banning whale and dolphin captivity would demonstrate international leadership on animals.”
After passing Bill S-203, the Senate also voted in favor of Bill S-238, the Ban on Shark Fin Importation Act, sponsored by Conservative Senator Michael MacDonald. Bill S-238 also has strong support across party lines.
Fast facts about Bill S-203:
Bill S-203 would make it an offence to keep captive, breed, import, or export a whale, dolphin or porpoise. There are exemptions for cetaceans currently in captivity, as well as for rescue and rehabilitation efforts.
Bill S-203 was studied for nearly a year by the Fisheries Committee, which heard evidence from countless experts over 17 committee meetings.
Only two Canadian facilities still keep whales and dolphins in captivity—Marineland and the Vancouver Aquarium. There is only one surviving dolphin at the Vancouver Aquarium after a spate of deaths, and the facility has publicly committed not to acquire any further cetaceans.
Over a dozen other jurisdictions around the world have already banned keeping some or all cetaceans in tanks, including Mexico, France, South Carolina, and California. Ontario banned keeping orca whales in 2015, and the Vancouver Park Board voted to ban cetacean display and captivity at the Vancouver Aquarium in 2017. (The ban is being challenged in court.)
The Whale Sanctuary Project plans to build a seaside sanctuary for retired whales and dolphins in Nova Scotia, British Columbia, or Washington.