full story, comments, photos:
By Melissa Cronin
January 27, 2015
Ontario will no longer allow orca whales to be put in tanks for profit.
The ban is a symbolic victory for the province's only captive killer whale,
Kiska, who was caught in the wild and has been living in her concrete tank in
the Marineland amusement park for 37 years.
Phil Demers, a former senior trainer at the park who is now campaigning against
the park's poor animal welfare standards, told The Dodo that the lack of laws
around marine mammals made it impossible for him and his colleagues to report
the animal neglect they witnessed.
"Today is a start," he said. "Hopefully it's the beginning of the end of marine
mammal captivity in Ontario. It's a good feeling knowing Marineland will never
have another captive killer whale. Kiska will be their last."
Ontario's government is expected to announce Tuesday an
all-out ban on the selling or buying of orcas, as well as a series of
changes in the regulations for captive marine mammals including dolphins,
walruses, seals and sea lions. The move is the result of a 125-page report
compiled by marine mammal scientists at the University of British Columbia.
"It is our opinion that the present standards of care that apply to marine
mammals in public display facilities are insufficient."
Ontario isn't alone in turning its back on marine mammal captivity. Last
October, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed a measure stating that
cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) have the
right to be free from life in captivity. In California, a bill was
introduced in early 2014 that would make it illegal to "hold
in captivity, or use, a wild-caught or captive-bred orca for performance or
entertainment purposes." And last March, a New York Senate Committee approved a
"Blackfish bill" to ban any future parks from keeping orcas in captivity.
Marineland, in Niagara Falls, is the only park in Ontario to keep an orca — and
it may be the last. Last July,
photos showing Kiska's blowhole severely indented and her dorsal fin
crumbling led marine mammal scientist Dr. Naomi Rose to describe her condition
as "an infection that is causing the tissue to lose its integrity ... she is NOT
in good condition."
Marineland's history with marine mammal welfare has been questioned before. The
Toronto Star has been conducting an ongoing investigation into the conditions at
the park, finding four young belugas who died over just four years, poor water
quality that led to dolphins' skin falling "off in chunks," and walruses left
alone for long periods of time and kept in dry, cramped pens.
The park's owner, John Holer, denied the
allegations in 2012, telling the Star:
"All our facilities are legal...We take care of the animals — better than I
would take care of myself."