Holding signs emblazoned with messages such as “Enslaved not Rescued,” “Life in a Tank is No Life at All,” and “Empty the Tanks,” more than 100 protesters gathered outside the Vancouver Aquarium Tuesday night.
The occasion was a private party organized by the aquarium to celebrate the completion of phase one of a $60 million renovation and expansion project.
As aquarium staff and directors, including president John Nightingale, donors and special guests entered the facility for the party, the protesters outside, including No Whales In Captivity’s Annelise Sorg on a bullhorn, attempted to embarrass the VIPs by yelling, “Shame.”
The protestors want the aquarium to phase out whale and dolphin exhibits and stop the importation of more belugas once the expansion is complete and the whale pools have been enlarged. Anti-captivity protestors are growing more vocal in anticipation of the November civic election and are pressuring the park board to hold a plebiscite on the issue.
As well, the city’s bylaw surrounding the keeping of cetaceans in captivity is up for review next year. Sorg is concerned a newly elected park board won’t have the experience needed to negotiate with the aquarium over the issue.
“We do not agree with the mayor that newly elected park board commissioners should be left to negotiate behind closed doors next year with the powerful Vancouver top-notch lawyers representing the Vancouver Aquarium,” Sorg told the Courier in April. “We will continue to pursue our two-decades long goal to have the park board approve holding a public referendum on the issue of whale captivity.”
Nightingale recently told the Courier that once a newly expanded whale tank is completed, the facility would bring back three belugas on loan to other facilities to join the two already there.
The aquarium’s expansion project is being completed in eight projects ranging in cost from $1.5 million to $18 million. A public grand opening of phase one takes place this Friday, June 13, where new features, exhibits and interactive areas will be revealed.
Upon entry, visitors will be greeted by a giant globe of the world, from which wrap-around screens will take them on a journey of our oceans and the aquatic life within them. Children can “learn by play,” at Clownfish Cove or check out the new Animal Rescue Centre, a seaside dock with “underwater” tunnels to explore, a touch table and reading nook.
In the tropical gallery, visitors will find a new pig-nosed turtle, rainbow fish, a surface-floating, four-eyed fish and mudskippers. A new bat cave exhibit has been created in the Graham Amazon Gallery. For more information visit vanaqua.org.