Sunday, 15 September, 2019

Canada passes 'Free Willy' law banning captivity of whales and dolphins

Captive dolphins are trained to do things that aren’t natural Captive dolphins are trained to do things that aren’t natural
Sandy Nunez | 12 June, 2019, 03:52

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The bill covers all captive cetaceans - whales, dolphins and porpoises - and establishes fines of up to $200,000 for violations.

OTTAWA, Canada- Canada's House of Commons passed a bill Monday to make it illegal to hold a whale, dolphin or porpoise captive, punishable by fines up to $150,000 Dollars.

"The passage of Bill S-203 is a watershed moment in the protection of marine animals and a victory for all Canadians", Rebecca Aldworth, Executive Director of Humane Society International Canada, said in a press release about the win.

Lawmakers passed the legislation, called "Free Willy" by its advocates, on June 10. But today we celebrate that we have ended the captivity and breeding of whales and dolphins. There are exemptions for cetaceans now in captivity, as well as for rescue and rehabilitation efforts.

Marineland in Niagara Falls and the Vancouver Aquarium are the only two places in Canada with cetaceans in captivity.

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Beluga whales are remarkably social animals, using a massive range of clicks, whistles and clangs to communicate with their kind.

The bill forbids the capture, captive breeding, import and export of cetaceans, but does not require the release of those animals now already held in captivity in Canada.

The Green Party of Canada celebrated in a statement Monday. In 2013, the documentary Blackfish premiered, arguing that the conditions of captivity (tiny cages, close quarters to other whales, performance training) caused a whale named Tilikum to contribute to the deaths of three humans.

The bill is expected to become law.

CNN reports that the bill provides exceptions if the animal is a rescue, in rehabilitation, needs assistance, or is licensed for scientific research.

Conservation groups and NGOs have been pushing for the ban for years, many arguing that cetaceans' high levels of intelligence made prolonged captivity a form of animal cruelty. "Cetaceans require the ocean, they require the space, they require acoustic communication over long distances".