July 22, 2003, VANCOUVER - Along with many other concerned groups and individuals, The Humane Society of Canada (HSC) is working to oppose the Vancouver Aquarium’s decision to try to acquire another dolphin for their facility. While a Vancouver Parks Board bylaw passed in 1996 prevents the importation of cetaceans into parks, there are some situations where this is currently allowed including cetaceans who were born in captivity or who were caught in the wild prior to September 16, 1996.
"Holding animals in captivity sends out the wrong message. While aquarium and zoo personnel often say that their captives educate the public, nothing could be further from the truth. Captive animals do not exhibit natural behaviours. Keeping dolphins and other cetaceans in captivity only reinforces the misguided notion that we can only understand nature by dominating it and that humans are somehow above nature rather than being a part of it," says HSC Western Regional Director Al Hickey.
Besides its anti-educational message, HSC Executive Director Michael O’Sullivan is opposed to the Vancouver Aquarium obtaining more dolphins for their marine zoo for other reasons.
"The quality of life of captive animals is greatly diminished from that of animals in the wild," states O’Sullivan. "A scientific study lead by a Canadian team of researchers with the International Marine Mammal Association, that was sponsored in part by The HSC, found that cetaceans have significantly shortened life spans in captivity. For example, the study showed that, on average, the expected life span of a bottlenose dolphin in captivity is as little as 14 years while in the wild these beautiful, intelligent creatures can live for 25-30 years."
Another cruel aspect of keeping captive animals involves how they are caught. O’Sullivan points out that some cetaceans are captured for aquaria and zoos during drive fisheries carried out by countries like Japan. The current resident dolphin at the Vancouver Aquarium, Spinnaker, was bought from Japan; "Drive fisheries are conducted by fishermen who are angry because they blame dolphins from vanishing fisheries - instead of their own destructive fishing practices. The practice involves corralling dolphins in deep water and then driving them towards the shore and slaughtering them in relatively shallow coastal waters. Those that are not harpooned, stabbed or butchered alive, are sold as captives to be exploited by aquaria," he said.
"Along with many others in the multibillion captive entertainment industry, the Vancouver Aquarium often argues that holding cetaceans captive will somehow teach the public to have greater concern and respect for marine life. If that is truly the objective, then it has failed in a most miserable and spectacular fashion. Marine life and the global environment are now facing more clear and present dangers than ever before," said O’Sullivan.
The evidence about the psychological and physiological impact of holding cetaceans captive is as true now as it ever was. When the Vancouver Aquarium promised not to import any dolphin caught after 1996, this artificial cutoff point did absolutely nothing to diminish the suffering associated with keeping intelligent social animals in cramped concrete tanks explains O’Sullivan.
In an open letter to the Vancouver Parks Commission, The Humane Society of Canada says in part: "..And then the Vancouver Aquarium baited the hook by saying poor lonely Spinnaker needs a mate. We hope that no one will fall for their ploy hook, line and sinker. Don't allow the Vancouver Aquarium to wrench any more dolphins from the family pods to confine them to a life of swimming endless circles in a sterile concrete tank. Leave them swimming free in the oceans where they belong.."
CONTACT: Michael O'Sullivan by toll free 1-800-641-KIND or Michael on his cell phone (416) 876-9685 or at www.humanesociety.com via twitter at www.twitter.com/HSCanada and on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Humane-Society-of-Canada/211468055538280
[For more than 17 years, Al Hickey was the Chief Executive of the BC SPCA and before that headed up the Alberta and BC Chambers of Commerce, and was the Executive Director of the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Vancouver. He has been The HSC Western Regional Director for over 12 years. He has 4 children and 6 grandchildren. For his lifetime of achievement dedicated to helping people, animals and the environment, we have bestowed upon him our prestigious Heroes for Animals Award, shared by only a handful of people and organizations.
A father with two children, and a houseful of dogs and cats, Michael O'Sullivan has worked across Canada and in over 110 countries during the last 40 years helping people, animals and nature.]
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