RE: Park Board Special Meeting on Cetacean Captivity at the Vancouver Aquarium - March 8 @ 6pm
March 7, 2017
Dear Mr. Chairman and Park Board Commissioners, I am writing on behalf of the members and volunteers of No Whales In Captivity, to urge you to vote at tomorrow's board meeting to put strict measures in place to ban cetacean imports immediately.
At your January 23rd board meeting, we were encouraged to witness every one of you showing political will towards ending whale and dolphin suffering in Stanley Park, and we sincerely congratulate you for that.
At that meeting, park board staff reported to have received in the prior week, 447 emails urging commissioners to end cetacean captivity at the aquarium; 117 emails in support of the cetacean plebiscite motion; and a No Whales In Captivity's online petition with 4,521 signatures. FYI the petition now has 5,198 signatures. Here is a link to our petition: https://www.change.org/p/vancouver-park-board
In contrast, the Park Board received 3 e-mails opposed to holding a cetacean plebiscite.
However, No Whales In Captivity was disappointed when commissioners did not agree at that meeting to simply amend the second part of the motion, and instead voted in favour of a staff report that further delayed you making a decision, especially when everybody seemed to be on board.
By delaying this vote, you have given the Vancouver Aquarium the opportunity to announce seriously misleading plans that we fear some of the commissioners may decide to accept as a compromise. Please, we strongly urge you not to do that.
The Aquarium's absurd proposal to continue with its plans to spend $20 million on expanding the cetacean exhibits for the next two years only to keep performing belugas for 10 more, is something we fear may sink the possibility of the Park Board finally imposing strict restrictions on cetacean importation, if a majority of commissioners decide to trust the Aquarium's claims.
Just the fact that the Aquarium has announced that it has no plans in regards to the future of those proposed expensive new whale show tanks after 2029, should give commissioners enough cause for concern to make you reject the Aquarium's unethical proposal altogether.
At your January 23rd board meeting, a motion was presented to hold a cetacean plebiscite in 2018. The motion also asked that the Park Board "write to the Vancouver Aquarium asking it consider not bringing cetaceans into the facility until after the results of the 2018 plebiscite are received."
We were hoping that commissioners at that meeting would have agreed to simply drop the word "consider" and just told the Aquarium not to bring any more cetaceans, period. If the Aquarium then announced that it refused to abide by your request, commissioners would have been justified to find a way to impose strong legal measures to restrict the Aquarium. Furthermore, if the commissioners had voted in favour of a motion with strong amendments, we would now at least have the guarantee that the issue of whales in captivity would be placed in the next Vancouver municipal election's ballot so the public would finally have been allowed a say.
Although we are very much hoping that our concerns are unfounded and that this delay and the upcoming staff report, will only serve to strengthen your resolve to ban captivity immediately, we remain confused as to why a cetacean plebiscite, as well as a moratorium on imports, couldn't have been approved at that January 23rd meeting.
With all due respect, we can't help but wonder if Visions Vancouver and Green Party commissioners who voted in favour of the delay, were just not ready to give the lead on this issue back to the NPA, the party who started this ball rolling back in 1995 when NPA Park Board Chairman David Chesman warned the Vancouver Aquarium that any further request for land to expand the whale tanks would be sent for public vote in the form of a cetacean plebiscite in the elections of 1996. In the end, the board unfortunately compromised and enacted a bylaw that never worked, as 4 dolphins have already swam through the bylaw's loopholes and ended up performing at the Aquarium.
Considering that all the municipal political parties that commissioners currently represent on the board (NPA, Visions and Greens), as well as COPE, have taken turns at different times during the last 3 decades to rally behind holding cetacean plebiscites, as well as trying their hand at imposing restrictions on cetacean trade and breeding, it has been disheartening for us to witness the Vancouver Aquarium continuing to import performing cetaceans, while blatantly refusing to recognize the intent of any of the Park Board's restrictions.
At tomorrow's special meeting, you will be presented with a Park Board staff report, which should include options for banning captivity. Tomorrow you will again have the opportunity to erase our concerns and prove that your intentions are honourable and that you will all focus on finding a way to stop cetacean imports. We urge you not to compromise on this issue, to stand strong against powerful Aquarium pressure, and to please vote in favour of restrictions that will stop all cetacean imports.
Many thanks for your attention to our concerns and recommendations. No Whales In Captivity will have representatives speaking on behalf of our group at tomorrow's special meeting. Please contact me if you have any concerns or questions, as I would be more than happy to discuss them with you.
No Whales In Captivity
Box 461 - 1755 Robson Street
Vancouver, BC V6G 3B7 CANADA