Saturday, February 20, 2016

PETITION: Support Bill S-203, Ending the Captivity of Whales and Dolphins Act

Canadian citizens are strongly urged to sign the petition created by Green Party leader Elizabeth May supporting Liberal Senator Wilfred Moore's Senate bill to phase out cetacean captivity in Canada.

Bill S-203, Ending the Captivity of Whales and Dolphins Act has undergone second reading in the Canadian senate and will require a lot of public support in order for it to become eventual law.

Please sign the petition located here:

Canadians are also urged to contact their Member of Parliament to voice their support for the bill as it will need to pass through the House of Commons. You can find you MP's contact information here:

Sunday, February 7, 2016

DEMONSTRATION CALENDAR: Opening Day May 21st 2016

The first demonstration at Marineland of 2016 has been announced and as is tradition of recent years it will take place on Marineland's opening day of the 2016 season.

The family friendly demonstration will take place on Saturday May 21st from 11am to 2pm on public property outside the front gates of the Niagara Falls captive animal facility.

The official event page, where further details will be announced is located here:

From the event description:
The opening day demonstration at Marineland in Niagara Falls has become one of the largest public animal advocacy demonstrations in Canada each Spring. People from all walks of life are welcome to attend to oppose Marineland's animal exhibits and call for an end to their exploitative business practices. 2016 is an especially important year as mounting public pressure is resulting in new proposals & laws being introduced in Canada to finally phase out marine mammal captivity. As always, this is a family friendly demonstration however please leave companion animals at home. Racist, queerphobic, sexist, or otherwise oppressive signs and language are not welcome at the demo.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

BREAKING: LCA Investigates Marineland

UPDATED: The story in this post is now the subject of a Libel Notice from Marineland Canada. See below.

Last Chance for Animals, an animal advocacy group in the United States has published an investigation into Marineland Canada.   Using undercover footage obtained within the park their video shows disturbing images of the conditions of the captive beluga whales at Marineland.   The Niagara Falls facility currently holds the world's largest collection of captive beluga whales.

You can view the video LCA posted here:  WARNING it contains disturbing images.

LCA Provided the following summary of their findings on their website:

Summary of Investigative findings

LCA conducted a five-month undercover investigation into Marineland Canada, during the summer and fall of 2015, with a primary focus on the park’s beluga whale population and the conditions under which they are being held. The majority of the park’s 46 belugas are confined to just three main pools with no breeding program in place to regulate births, allowing Marineland’s population of belugas to continue to grow at an alarming and irresponsible rate.

The investigation uncovered disturbing inadequacies in the care of the whales, which include:
  • Multiple beluga cows observed suffering for months from an undiagnosed condition reported by employees to park management as “genital rubbing” which caused the whales to rub themselves constantly against the concrete tank until blood was visible in the water
  • Gia, a juvenile beluga who was initially separated from her mother by accident, was left in a shallow isolation pool for three months while she became emaciated
  • A three-month old beluga calf with a deep laceration near his fluke left untreated for two days before seen by a local small animal vet. The laceration reopened shortly thereafter
  • Belugas exhibiting signs of eye abnormalities, such as redness, irritation, and cataracts, and in some cases, young belugas appearing to develop cataracts prematurely
  • Numerous belugas with various medical conditions, such as hypersalivation, regurgitation, and raw, red throats, in some cases for prolonged periods of time
  • Routine deprivation of food for training purposes
  • The birth of 5 calves, one of which died
The investigation also revealed that the whales were housed in enclosures that are not only barren in comparison to their natural environment but also unsafe and harmful in their very design and the interactions they promote, including:
  • 46 belugas of both sexes ranging in age from newborns to mature adults confined in three main cement enclosures
  • Belugas, including newborn calves, covered in “rake marks”, from being attacked and bitten by dominant whales
  • Enclosures that did not provide the whales with areas away from public view, nor any protection from the elements
  • Enclosures with inadequate barriers that promote unsupervised public contact with the whales as well as the accidental or deliberate introduction of foreign objects into the whales’ enclosures
  • Kiska, Marineland’s lone orca, constantly swimming in circles in the smaller of her two pools
  • More than 100 barrels of industrial strength bleach kept on site, and employees repeatedly complaining of burning eyes and a strong chlorine smell on certain days when next to the pools
These findings formed the basis of LCA's complaint to the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals for violations of the OSPCA Act and its prescribed standards of care.

Marineland Canada, located in Niagara Falls, Ontario, first opened its doors in 1961 as little more than a roadside attraction. John Holer, whose background is in the circus industry, purchased three sea lions to put on display, and charged one quarter for admission. From that point forward, the park began growing rapidly, and by the 1970’s, had expanded to include a 2,000 seat “aquatheatre”, as well as acquiring its first captive orca, “Kandu”, who quickly became the star attraction. Marineland is now not only Canada's largest amusement park, but also confines more beluga whales than any other park in the world.

Marineland and Mr. Holer are no strangers to controversy, having become the subject of intense public scrutiny after allegations emerged of mass animal graves located inside the park, a claim which was later proven to be true. Since then, the park has been involved in a litany of scandals involving both the park itself, and the often erratic behavior of its owner, John Holer. Persistent pressure and condemnation from the public, activists, and particularly from former Marineland employees themselves have garnered widespread media coverage, including an in-depth investigation into the park by The Toronto Star.

Despite Marineland management and Mr. Holer’s repeated attempts to silence critics with frivolous lawsuits and threats of litigation, the atrocities committed by Marineland and Mr. Holer are firmly established in public’s eye.

LCA’s investigation reveals that no whales should be kept in captivity and that doing so causing suffering and distress to these sensitive social creatures. Canadian parliament has before it bill S-203, “Ending the Captivity of Whales and Dolphins Act” which would prevent this tragedy being inflicted upon future whales by banning their capture, confinement, breeding and sale.

LCA also provided a statement by marine mammal expert and Neuroscientist Lori Marino Ph.D. regarding her observations of the investigation which can be read here.

Marineland has responded to the investigation with the following statement:

An anonymous video, allegedly taken three to four months ago, was released today by a Los Angeles based radical animal activist group in which that "group" makes a series of false allegations of criminal animal abuse against employees of Marineland.
This video follows an orchestrated phone call and Facebook attack this past Friday by another radical animal rights activist group against Marineland alleging that Kiska the killer whale had died.
Both sets of allegations are tied to efforts by radical animal rights activists to obtain signatures on their petition to the federal government regarding a private member’s bill introduced by an unelected senator, which will ban all marine mammals in captivity in Canada, forcing the closure of the Vancouver Aquarium, Marineland and all other marine mammal facilities. That private member’s bill died on the order paper and has now been re-introduced by that same unelected Senator.
The allegations by the Los Angeles based "group" are completely and knowingly false.
If the "group" actually believed the allegations were true it is unbelievable that they would wait almost four months to make any report to the OSPCA or anyone else of the alleged "abuse".
They make these allegations now because they are false, and they know it, and solely to promote their petition to the federal government, which this “group” has linked on its web page to the video.
In response to some of these false allegations, Marineland has posted photos of Kiska, taken yesterday. She is completely healthy and fine.
Today, video and photos have also been posted to Marineland’s website of the animals depicted in the Los Angeles group's video, all of which are also healthy, thriving and fine.
Please see the following link -
Marineland is the most thoroughly investigated marine mammal facility in the world. All of its animals have been inspected by numerous independent scientists and experts over the last three years, including by an independent panel of three experts appointed by the Government of Ontario.
The Government of Ontario, after appointing an expert panel, reviewing the independent expert report, extensive discussions, a full public hearing, and participating in the work of a technical advisory group which included Zoocheck Canada, and other activist groups, has passed strong marine mammal regulations which apply to all the marine mammals at Marineland.
Marineland is working with the Government of Ontario to ensure the ongoing health and welfare of all its animals.
These types of grossly false allegations by a marginal and radical Los Angeles based “group” that was not involved at all in the legislative process in Ontario and also failed to participate at any point over the last four years in any investigations or discussions, are made solely for publicity reasons and are knowingly false.
All this “group” has done is make a hate-filled rant on the internet without concern for any consequences to the people who dedicate their lives to these wonderful marine mammals at Marineland and without regard for any damage they may cause to innocent people in the community of Niagara Falls.
Marineland trusts that the Canadian public will see these false allegations by this Los Angeles based “group” for what they are.

Marineland Canada has served a notice of Libel for posting about this story:

Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 Year in Review

Years of mounting public pressure and the shift in the public's attitude regarding marine mammal captivity finally began to bear fruit in 2015 significantly impacting the way Marineland will be operating in the future.

Ontario finally began introducing major reforms in the province governing marine mammals, public protests persisted outside the facility and Marineland's seemingly perpetual public relations snafus continued to garner them international ridicule and scorn.

Despite the overall upswing in Americans visiting Canada due to the lower Canadian dollar in 2015 many observers estimated Marineland to have a poor year in attendance.

Multiple SLAPP lawsuits, some launched by Marineland close to 3 years ago targeting several individuals remained mired in motions, none of the lawsuits have even gone to discovery.

Here are some of the news highlights from 2015:


Ontario announces they intend to pass legislation effectively ending orca captivity in the province.   The legislation (Bill 80) which was later passed in May banned the buying, selling or breeding of killer whales.  Kiska, Canada's last remaining captive orca imprisoned at Marineland was not covered by this new legislation and was 'grandfathered' in.  Kiska will likely die alone at the Niagara Falls facility however she will be the last orca Marineland is allowed to own.


Marineland Animal Defense a small group of activists who had been campaigning over the last 3 years against Marineland announced they were closing down their campaign and ceasing their opposition to the park. 


Opening Day at Marineland for the 2015 season saw a large public demonstration outside the park for the third straight year.  Attended by many families, this would be one of 3 major public protests at Marineland during the summer.  In between demonstrations many activists used leafleting to engage and educate the public about Marineland in the busy tourist areas of Niagara Falls.


'Everyone Loves Marineland' a self described 'disco-musical' comedy show scheduled for Toronto's Fringe Festival was forced to change its name after legal threats emerged from Marineland's lawyers.
The satirical show was later re-titled Everyone Loves Sealand and received poor reviews during its run.

Canadian Senator Wilfred Moore introduced a Senate bill calling for the complete phasing out of cetacean captivity in Canada. Marineland lashed out at the Senator calling his bill a "bicoastal job creation and tourism bill at the expense of Ontario."  The bill was short lived due to the Canadian election call but was re-introduced in December and is currently awaiting second reading in the Senate.


A local animal rights group, Niagara Action for Animals placed an anti-captivity billboard in the downtown area of Niagara Falls.  The billboard featured photographs of animals at Marineland and immediately drew the ire of the park's lawyers.   Legal threats were sent to the billboard's ownership company demanding it be taken down.  The company declined to remove the billboard and the issue garnered widespread attention in the media and on the internet.


Ontario passed new legislation (Bill 52) restricting the use of SLAPP litigation, a legal tactic Marineland has relied on several times in attempting to halt public opposition to its business.   The government of Ontario however removed retro active portions of the bill that could have helped to assist current litigants engaged with Marineland.   Going forward their ability to use SLAPP litigation will likely be severely limited. 


Ontario released a new set standards of care for marine mammals in the province which they have included in an amended OSPCA act, much of which will take effect in 2016.   Many of the standards highlight specific environmental conditions and enrichment programs Marineland will have to comply with.   An 'animal welfare committee' will plan out and oversee the implementation of much of the standards.   Many details including how oversight is enforced even against the committee is still yet to be determined.

Marineland ended the year with more legal threats, this time against journalist Jesse Brown of the Canadaland Podcast. Reacting to an appearance on the podcast by former Marineland trainer Phil Demers Marineland threatened: "you and your news site and podcast network will be sued to judgment." if they were to air the episode featuring Demers.  Brown went ahead and aired it anyway. 

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Marineland's Bears Receive a Gift

One of the saddest sights to behold at Marineland is the plight of the black bears.
Over two dozen black bears crammed into an enclosure that features little natural shade and a filthy 'moat'.  The bears are reduced to begging for cereal from complicit tourists.  Their cramped unnatural captive conditions have been blamed for incidents where the bears have attacked each other to the horror of onlookers.

This past season some caring visitors took it upon themselves to bring the bears a real treat, fresh apples.  Watch as tourists are invited to ditch the cereal they have purchased at a premium from Marineland in favor of giving the bears a healthy snack.  Interestingly, this video also says a lot about the overall security at this facility when visitors can walk in with a cooler of apples and distribute them to visitors to give to the animals.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

UPDATED: Restricting the Import of Wild Caught Cetaceans into Canada

It was five years ago this week that Marineland took delivery of eight young female beluga whales.  Acadia, Aurora, Lilloet, Meeka, Rain, Rose, Secord and Talia all arrived on December 6th 2008 from a life of freedom in the ocean to face a lifetime of captivity in a Niagara Falls tank.  The eight beluga whales were captured from the Sea of Okhotsk in Eastern Russia.  This week's grim anniversary for the eight Belugas marks the most recent occasion where Marineland has  imported wild caught cetaceans.  Previous to this they had imported belugas in 2005, 2003 and 1999 as well as dolphins from the Black Sea in 2001.  

Throughout its history Marineland has imported orcas, dolphins and belugas from different parts of the world exploiting the lack of regulation in Canada that does not restrict the importation of wild caught cetaceans.

The Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans does not allow the capture of wild cetaceans within Canadian waters without a permit and has not granted one in decades.  Marineland last applied to the DFO in 1999 asking to capture wild Belugas from Hudson's Bay near the town of Churchill, Manitoba.  Residents of the town loudly protested the request.  The permit was denied and the DFO cited (among many reasons) the inadequate facilities for such animals at Marineland.  Months later wild caught belugas began arriving from Russia instead.

Marineland is the only facility in Canada that continues to capture wild cetaceans and their ability to import them with ease is a real problem.  Currently there is no specific legislation that prevents the importation of these animals into the country.  Canada is a signatory to CITES (Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) via the "Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act" (WAPPRIITA).  WAPPRIITA requires the use of a permit system to restrict trade in some cetacean species. Depending on which CITES appendix a species is found on, both an import/export permit is needed, while in other cases only an export permit from the country of origin is needed.

Orcas, belugas and dolphins are Marineland's main attractions and the key to their current business model.  While they might be priced out of the captive orca market there is no doubt they will likely be importing more dolphins very soon to replace their aging inventory.   Any wild caught cetaceans currently do not require a permit to be imported into Canada.  Correcting this problem actually requires relatively little regulatory reform for Canada to begin requiring an import permit for these animals.  It can be accomplished through the existing CITES & WAPPRIITA rules.  The federal Minister of Environment would be responsible for making such changes and it can be done without the difficulty of passing new legislation.  Other countries such as the United States already require an import permit for these animals and also importantly allow the opportunity for the public to comment on the application.  A successful example of this was the recent denial of the Georgia Aquarium's application to import 18 wild beluga whales.

Anyone in Canada concerned about restricting wild capture imports and currently writing about it to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans will automatically be referred to CITES policy.  In previous governments,  attempts from the DFO at passing brand new legislation and a total ban on imports have failed at the cabinet level. Private member's bills introduced by MPs seeking similar laws have also not succeeded.

If Canadians really want to change the current system and severely restrict or ban the importation of wild caught cetaceans into Canada they should be writing to the federal Minister of Environment & Climate Change Catharine McKenna who can actually make these changes under CITES & WAPPRIITA.  Requiring a permit to import wild caught cetaceans into Canada and allowing for the opportunity for the public to make comment on such applications is the key first step in preventing Marineland from capturing and importing more wild caught orcas, dolphins and belugas.

The Honourable Catherine McKenna

Minister of the Environment & Climate Change
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A6

Tel.: 819-997-1441
Fax: 819-953-0279

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Marineland Closes For Season, Owner Ailing

Marineland has closed for yet another season and its closing day was met by demonstrators continuing to protest the facility's captive animal program. Approximately 150 people lined the public space in front of the park holding signs, shouting chants and appealing to customers not to go in. This was the third demonstration of the year held at the Niagara Falls facility.

PHOTO BY Mike Sansano

Noticeably absent from this demonstration was Marineland's omnipresent hands-on owner John Holer who in the past has always been highly visible patrolling the parking lot and Portage Rd in his vehicle during protests. Sources who work for the park have told Marineland: In Depth Holer is recuperating at home from a recent hospitalization due to a clogged artery. Holer is 80 years old.