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.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Marineland Whistleblower Raising Awareness & Helping Activist

Brendan Kelly is a former Marineland trainer who was one of over a dozen ex staffers that revealed disturbing details of what really happens behind the scenes at the Niagara Falls facility. Kelly is continuing to raise awareness about the plight of Marineland's animals including Kiska, the last remaining captive orca in Canada.

This October Kelly will be running his first half marathon as part of Team Blackfish, a team of multi-sport activists that participate in athletic events and raise awareness for Orca whales currently being held in captivity. In correlation Kelly is also attempting to help Marineland activist Mike Garrett who is currently facing a $1.5 million dollar lawsuit from the park.  Kelly is hoping for support from the community, accepting sponsorships for his run that will be in turn donated to help with the immense legal costs faced by Mr. Garrett.

You can learn more about Brendan's run,  Kiska's story and the challenges faced by Mike on the donation page setup here:

Please help out if you can, every little bit helps. 

Thursday, August 27, 2015


Want to help change things for whales, dolphins, walruses, sea lions and seals in Ontario?

Comments are needed on the proposed 'Standard of care for marine mammals in captivity' and the DEADLINE for public comment is September 14th 2015.  While these comments do not speak to the direct overall unethical issue of captivity, it is CRUCIAL that for the animals currently forced to endure it their lives be made better.

On May 28, 2015, the Ontario Legislature passed Bill 80, the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA) Amendment Act, that:

• prohibits the breeding and possession of orcas (except Marineland’s lone orca Kiska) in Ontario.

• Expanded the existing regulation-making authority under the OSPCA Act to allow the Minister to establish additional administrative requirements related to management, oversight practices, professional services, and collecting and disclosing information, intended to ensure the appropriate care of an animal.

The Government of Ontario consultation notice can be found at:

The proposed Standards of Care and Administrative Standards for marine mammals can be found at:


You can also provide comments directly to Yasir Naqvi the Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services at 

You can provide your own comments or use some of the following points:


While there are some positive aspects to the proposed standards, there are numerous deficiencies and weaknesses that undermine their effectiveness and that will make them difficult to enforce. Unless these are addressed, the standards may allow business as usual in Ontario’s marine parks and aquariums.



1. No requirement for veterinarian with marine mammal experience and expertise.  I ask that a vet with marine mammal experience be REQUIRED.

2. No minimum time requirement for enrichment activities/programs to keep animals occupied.  I ask that an extensive enrichment program be implemented immediately.

3. No requirement for social animals to be given companionship, so Kiska may be left in social isolation. Belugas or dolphins should be introduced to her as soon as possible.

4. No requirement for privacy/refuge areas for animals, particularly important when many animals housed together and may be subject to aggression (bullying).  I ask that this be a requirement of animal enclosures and include mandatory shaded areas from the sun for all marine mammals.

5. No requirement for seals, sea lions or walruses (pinnipeds) to be kept outdoors, even on a partial basis, so they have opportunities to experience natural sunlight and conditions such as fresh air.  I ask that this also be made mandatory.

6. No public disclosure of animal information or records, so no public accountability.  I ask that it be mandatory all records of imports, exports, births and deaths be publicly available.

You can expand on these comments if you wish, making them as brief or as long as you like.



Thursday, August 13, 2015

It's A Small World After All - For Kiska

Marineland claims lone orca Kiska lives in the 'largest pool housing a killer whale in the world' however just how large is Friendship Cove?

Marineland's statements about the tank size are completely arbitrary and they won't publicly release the actual dimensions of the three pod enclosure providing no facts to back up their statement.

Currently Kiska is only able to use two of the pod tanks as the third is being used to hold Belugas whales.  There is no shade structure at all providing Kiska with no relief from the hot summer sun.

In comparison to the Niagara River, which is a relatively small river nearby - Kiska's tank is minuscule. The Niagara River would be nothing compared to the vast open ocean Kiska would swim in the wild.

At Marineland there is more space dedicated to parking than there is space in ALL of the land and sea animal enclosures COMBINED.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Demonstration Calendar: Sunday October 11th 2015

The next and final demonstration against animal captivity at Marineland will be Sunday October 11th 2015.  The official event page is located here:

The protest is planned rain or shine and as always, billed as a family friendly demonstration however organizers ask that you please leave any companion animals at home.

The Call to Free Kiska

Young and old, singles and families, lined up once again to demonstrate against Marineland on Saturday for the second annual Free Kiska protest held outside the captive animal facility in Niagara Falls.  The focus of the demonstration was to speak out for Kiska, the last remaining killer whale held captive in Canada who has been at Marineland for decades and now lives in isolation.

Ontario recently passed a law banning the future sales, acquisitions and breeding of orcas in the province but it did not provide any help for Kiska who will likely remain alone at Marineland until she dies.

Demonstrators on Saturday called for Kiska to be moved to a retirement sanctuary in the ocean or a more suitable facility where she can be with others of her own kind.  Orcas are extremely social animals, almost more so than humans, they are known to stay with their families for their entire lives.

Folks lined up early with their signs chanting slogans in attempts to persuade people not to enter the facility.  Each time this was successful a round of cheers rose up from protesters.  At one point, two young men visiting on a tour from Mexico named Marco & Jorge changed their minds about entering Marineland.  They picked up some signs and joined the demonstration.

The Ontario government is currently overhauling  the standards of care for all marine mammals in the province and is seeking the public's input:

Coverage of Saturday's demonstration was featured widely across Niagara by the Postmedia Network: