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. 

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