The Vancouver Park Board has posted a staff report dated July 23, 2014 on the current Practice of Keeping Captive Cetaceans in Stanley Park at the Vancouver Aquarium. A Special Meeting has been scheduled to start at 9 am on Saturday, July 26, 2014. This is scheduled as the last meeting of Park Board before the summer break, and it will take place at 2099 Beach Avenue (the Park Board HQ is the last building before entering Stanley Park on Beach Avenue, a short walk from Davie and Denman Streets). Speakers should sign up online by noon on Friday, July 25th; the full agenda for the meeting is available here.
The main thrust of the staff report is a comparative analysis of the Vancouver Aquarium and similar facilities around the globe. The report has confirmed that dolphins and whales are banned from aquariums in 7 countries: Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, India, Slovenia, and Switzerland. As well, it finds that the majority of aquariums worldwide are without cetaceans (illustration page 9, inset). The only other aquarium with live cetaceans in Canada is Marineland in Ontario.
The Vancouver Aquarium is currently looking to expand its facilities in a second phase of construction. Is there an alternate future for the Vancouver Aquarium, a future that does not include live cetaceans?
Now is a critical time for decisions – an opportunity to change course and allocate resources and capital plans in other ways than to keep or to expand the display of captive dolphins and whales. The Monterey Bay Aquarium is frequently used as an example of a highly successful facility that doesn’t keep cetaceans in captivity. The Sydney Aquarium is a high profile facility, and again it operates without cetaceans.
The Oceanographic Museum of Monaco has a novel way of engaging visitors with an interactive digital tank. Could something similar be installed in Vancouver?
Decisions made over the fate of live cetaceans at the Vancouver Aquarium could be used to chart the future course of this facility. Could an alternate and vibrant future be contemplated for the Aquarium without live whales and dolphins? What can be learned from the many aquariums worldwide that do not keep cetaceans in captivity? These questions touch upon ethics and values, public consultation and democracy, tourism and taxes, creativity and practicality, economics and marketing, management and leadership, politics and courage. Perhaps a major force of inertia resisting change in policy at Vancouver Aquarium is the fact that a significant amount of capital and resources has been committed to one vision of an aquarium — based on a business model that includes captive cetaceans for tourism and revenue. In business school and in the real business world, it is the courageous and creative leaders who are able to see issues to their core, recognize where change is needed, and then lead their organizations where they can and should go. What will we see unfolding before our eyes, so close up, right here in Vancouver?