Canada Bans Whale and Dolphin Captivity

The House of Commons voted in favour of Bill S-203, which sets out to protect cetaceans from the trauma of confinement for entertainment purposes.
June 11, 2019, 3:24pm
Canada bans whale and dolphin captivity, bill s-203
Image via CP. 

Canada has banned the captivity of whales, dolphins, and porpoises for entertainment purposes.

On Monday, the House of Commons voted in favour of Bill S-203, namely, the Ending the Captivity of Whales and Dolphins Act. The bill is meant to protect cetaceans—aquatic mammals such as whales and dolphins—from confinement in entertainment marine parks, and the trauma that comes with it.

The bill also bans captive breeding, imports, exports, live captures and restricts the possession of reproductive matter. It does not stop rescue, research or rehabilitation.


However, while parks, aquariums and zoos can no longer continue to replace their performing cetaceans, they are allowed to keep the ones they currently have in captivity.

The bill was tabled by former Liberal Nova Scotia Senator Wilfred Moore in December 2015, but it was initially opposed by Tory Senator Don Plett. After Moore retired, Independent Senator Murray Sinclair took the reins on the bill. According to a tweet from the Green Party of Canada, the bill was a “combined effort” from party leader Elizabeth May, the two senators, NDP and Liberal members of Parliament, marine scientists and “everyday people across Canada.”

Dr. Lori Marino, president of the Whale Sanctuary Project who testified at Senate hearings in 2017, called it a “major victory for cetaceans,” according to the organization’s website.

“They are among the most cognitively complex of all animals. Confining them to life in a concrete tank is truly unbearable for them,” Marino said.

Marineland, a popular theme park and zoo located in Niagara Falls, Ont., has been extremely vocal against the bill, citing concerns of customer attendance loss and job loss. According to a CBC report, the company said in an emailed statement on Monday that they comply with all of the bill’s demands.

"Bill S-203 does not impair the operations of Marineland. Marineland will continue to provide world-class care to all of its animals.”

The bill does allow parks to keep any animals that they currently own.


The movement against whale and dolphin captivity has been popularized over the years by a myriad of documentaries around the issues, and is still an ongoing battle.

Blackfish,” a documentary which premiered at Sundance Film Festival in January 2013, told the story of a killer whale that killed trainers while in captivity at Sea World.

Just a year and a half after the film’s premiere, Sea World saw its stock price drop by 60 percent. In March 2016, SeaWorld announced it would end all of its orca breeding programs and shows. Another popular film was “The Cove,” a documentary about dolphin slaughtering and selling in the Japanese town of Taiji.

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