Friday, May 27, 2016

Opening Day 2016 at Marineland


Marineland opened its gates for its 55th season on Saturday and the deluge of protesters who have picketed the facility for the last 4 years showed no signs of abating. The 2016 Marineland opening day demonstration saw approximately 450 people in attendance at its peak with many demonstrators attending with their families and young children.


Demonstrators used signs and shouted chants to get their anti-captivity message across to the people waiting to enter the gates of Marineland. For the fourth year in a row the park attempted to bolster attendance on opening day by offering free admission to children.


New this year at the demonstration were many signs supporting Canadian Senate Bill S-203, an active senate bill sponsored by Canadian Senator Wilfred Moore that aims to phase out the captivity of whales and dolphins in Canada.


Thursday, May 12, 2016

DEMONSTRATION CALENDAR: May 21st 2016 Opening Day


Marineland is set to open on Saturday May 21st and a large family friendly demonstration against the facility is planned for that day at 11am.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

UPDATED: Marineland Files NINTH Lawsuit Over Documentary


Marineland has filed yet another lawsuit, their ninth in a series of legal actions over the past several years, none of which have been resolved.

Marineland's claim filed in St. Catharines Ontario is against Zach Affolter an 18 year old marine biology student from California.  Affolter has been working on a short documentary for a school project entitled Black Water meant to highlight the plight of Kiska, the last remaining captive orca at Marineland and in Canada.

Marineland is using the lawsuit to attempt to block publication and distribution of the documentary and is seeking $1 million in damages.  They allege the documentary contains footage taken at Marineland which contravenes their legal terms with both visitors and employees.  Marineland claims all video and photos taken inside the park falls under their copyright ownership.   Critics are already seeing this as likely part of a wider legal strategy by the park to block any past or future damaging footage taken inside the park from being seen by the pubic.

Their statement of claim which has been obtained by Marineland: In Depth can be read below.


Marineland is set to open for the season in 10 days, a large demonstration against the facility is planned:
https://www.facebook.com/events/1562086484113461

Postmedia has picked up the story and includes comments from Zach Affolter:
http://www.stcatharinesstandard.ca/2016/05/12/marineland-files-lawsuit-against-teen-filmmaker


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:

https://petitions.parl.gc.ca/en/Petition/Sign/e-167





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.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pxSlYfONZyg



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 - https://www.facebook.com/MarinelandofCanada
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:


January

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.

April

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. 

May

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.




June

'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.

July

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.






October

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. 

December

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.