Vancouver Aquarium asks courts to overrule cetacean ban
In this file photo, Petty Officer First Class Rob Majore, right, a clearance diver with the Esquimalt-based Royal Canadian Navy Fleet Diving Unit, and Vancouver Aquarium senior marine mammal trainer Paula Lash, back left, participate in a diving demonstration as beluga whale Aurora swims at the aquarium in Vancouver, B.C., on Sunday January 18, 2015. (THE CANADIAN PRESS / Darryl Dyck)
VANCOUVER -- Officials with the Vancouver Aquarium say they have applied for a judicial review aimed at overturning a park board bylaw banning whales, dolphins and porpoises from its facility in Stanley Park.
The aquarium says it is asking the B.C. Supreme Court to rule the cetacean ban is invalid and set it aside.
In a news release, the aquarium says its petition claims the park board doesn't have the statutory power to enact the amendment, that board commissioners refused to hear from aquarium officials and that the decision renders a $100-million aquarium upgrade obsolete.
The aquarium says it has already spent $45 million of public and private funding on the upgrade.
The application says the bylaw causes numerous adverse impacts to the aquarium's mandate of conservation, including the loss of a long-term home for rescued cetaceans that cannot be released.
Park board spokeswoman Daria Wojnarski said in an email statement that because the matter is before the courts, the board would not comment.
Aquarium CEO John Nightingale said the ramifications of the bylaw are so far reaching that they would change the mission of conserving the world's oceans.
"As a result, we have no choice but to defend ourselves," Nightingale said in the release on Thursday.
"We cannot stand by and allow the park board to threaten the health and welfare of cetaceans, or develop bylaws on the fly that undermine our animal protection, conservation, research and education mandates."
Park board commissioners voted 6 to 1 in favour of approving the bylaw last month.
At the time, board chairman Michael Wiebe said scientists have found cetaceans are best treated in a natural habitat and research data captured from aquariums is no longer necessary.