Vancouver Aquarium suing city over cetacean ban

The Vancouver Aquarium is suing the city of Vancouver and the Vancouver Park Board over the 2017 cetacean ban. The aquarium claims that it has lost millions in revenue and cites a breach of contract.

In 2017, the Vancouver park board unanimously voted to ban displays featuring cetaceans, ordering the aquarium to phase them out by 2029.

According to documents filed in B.C. Supreme Court by the aquarium’s parent company, Ocean Wise, on May 14, the aquarium is now seeking damages.

In the court documents, the aquarium says it has seen a 13 percent decline in visitors in 2017 and 2018, resulting in an $8 million loss.

Vancouver Aquarium expansion project

The suit also says the aquarium has incurred major costs for an expansion project that had been green lit by the park board.

The $100 million expansion project included a “substantially renovated and expanded facilities for cetaceans, including larger pools for cetaceans”.

The park board approved the proposed design, and in 2009 the aquarium started paying an increased licence fee.

In 2014, the aquarium completed Phase 1 of the project, which cost more than $2.75 million to improve cetacean facilities. In 2017, when the ban was voted on, the aquarium was getting ready to begin construction on Phase 2.

In the suit, the Vancouver Aquarium claims it had already spent money on designing and planning the second phase, had obtained financial commitments, and had planned to bring back a small group of beluga whales.

In a statement, the park board says it is reviewing the claim with its legal team and considering its options.

There are currently no whales on display at the aquarium, and only one dolphin.

The world’s first open water beluga sanctuary

Meanwhile Merlin Entertainments and the SEA LIFE Trust have created the world’s first open water sanctuary for beluga whales. The sanctuary in Iceland will be home to two female beluga whales, currently at Changfeng Ocean World in Shanghai, China, which was acquired by Merlin in 2012.

The project is the first of its kind to be created for cetaceans and aims to encourage other projects. The long term goal is to bring about an end to whale and dolphin entertainment shows.

Merlin Entertainments, which owns the Sea Life aquarium chain and set up The Sea Life Trust, has a long-held principle that belugas and other cetaceans do not belong in captivity.

Image: Vancouver Aquarium