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Following many decades of protesting, campaigning and taking steps to “free the tanks”, animal rights activists and tourists can now rejoice – Vancouver Aquarium is ending their captive dolphin and whale program, for good.

The widespread and consistent public disagreement with keeping sea animals in tanks is constantly receiving greater support. Attraction parks that hold animals in captivity are branded as inhumane by many customers, as a result, profits are plummeting fast. For The Vancouver Aquarium, this outcry was hindering conservation efforts. CEO John Nightingale said staff at their non-profit dolphin and whale tank attraction will learn the cetacean program is ending on Thursday morning.

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[w]e absolutely believe in the value of whales and dolphins in engaging people. But you also have to be realistic, and it has gotten to the point where the debate in the community, with the lawyers, with the politicians … is debilitating our work on our mission.”

Just last spring, the Vancouver Park Board voted to ban the aquarium from bringing any new whales or dolphins to captivity in their park, as commissioners found an ethical issue with captive animals. While Nightingale at the time promised to fight the ban, after months of discussion, he has now finally conceded.

He adds “[w]e decided, through a lot of discussion in the fall, that we needed to get on with it, we’ve been here 61 years, the aquarium’s going to be here another 61 years, so it’s really important that we not tie our hands behind our backs.”

On hearing the news, David Isbister, a leading activist in the fight to end the captivity of cetaceans in the aquarium, released a statement, saying “Some justice has been achieved in one small facet of Animal Rights in one small corner of the world. Let’s use this as proof that a small group can speak the truth of abused others and see some movement for the positive. Let’s please all continue to exemplify compassion and love for all of our fellow sentients, and demand that their lives have meaning to them, not just to us.” Isbister, who is also a vegan, owns Plant Base Food, a Vancouver based company.

Since the park board’s vote, two of the aquarium’s cetaceans have died, leaving one Pacific white-sided dolphin they call Helen. Despite ending their own captive cetacean program, the park has promised to continue their work in rescuing distressed and stranded whales and dolphins.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons