Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Orca Captivity to End in Ontario

The Ontario government announced on Tuesday a slew of upcoming regulations governing the care of marine mammals in the province including an outright ban on the sale and acquisition of orcas, effectively ending killer whale captivity at facilities such as Marineland.

The regulations will be based on a report drafted by Dr. David Rosen a marine mammal expert who was commissioned by the province's Minister of Community Safety looking to update Ontario's standards of care for marine mammals. The report contains recommendations on a wide variety of animal care issues including habitats, water quality, vet care, environments, public interactions, acceptable noise levels and other 'stressers' that captive marine mammals endure.

The Rosen report recommends creating an animal welfare committee at each facility, reporting to the administrator but operating independently. Responsibilities would include:

 Keeping an up-to-date provincial inventory of all animals that includes lineage, acquisitions, births and deaths, with causes when known.

 A written veterinary care program developed in collaboration with veterinary experts and including a protocol for preventative medicine.

 Ensuring the water supply is reliable and that chlorine levels and bacterial counts meet provincial standards, which will be detailed in a new marine mammal section in the OSPCA Act.

 Enforcement of proper noise restrictions and appropriate light levels.

 Regulations on the handling and display of marine mammals and provisions for social and environmental enrichment.

 Ensuring that “concerns over animal care raised by staff are addressed and properly recorded. This can be facilitated by a written and posted ‘whistle-blower’ policy.”

The government will be setting up an advisory committee featuring various stakeholders and has indicated they would like to see the new rules in place within 6 months.

Activist Mike Garrett applauded the new protections for marine mammals but considers it a first step.

"While this is certainly a historic first step in bringing in better care for marine mammals in this province I think there is more work to be done to effectively end marine mammal captivity here. It has been proven the majority of these animals do not do well in captivity and i'd like to see a complete ban on the sale and acquisition of all cetaceans, not just orcas."

In a statement issued late Tuesday Marineland questioned the orca ban.

“The acquisition of killer whales is governed by international treaties and legislation entered into by the federal government with which Marineland has always complied,” the company said.

Currently the import/export of wild caught cetaceans into Canada is regulated under CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora). Under the conditions, Canada does currently not require an import permit to bring wild caught cetaceans into the country.

Marineland is closed for the season.

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