The Vancouver Aquarium is giving up its fight to keep whales, dolphins and porpoises in captivity, a move that animal advocates say is a step toward the end of cetaceans in captivity.

The Vancouver Aquarium announced Thursday that it’s ending the display of cetaceans following a long and controversial battle with animal activists, the public, and the city’s park board over the issue.

CEO John Nightingale says the heated public debate on the issue is hindering its conservation work.

Via pixabay

"We absolutely believe in the value of whales and dolphins in engaging people," he told CBC News. "But you also have to be realistic, and it has gotten to the point where the debate in the community, with the lawyers, with the politicians ... is debilitating our work on our mission."

The decision to end the cetacean program won't affect the aquarium's work in rescuing stranded and distressed whales and dolphins, he added, however any rehabilitated animal that can't be released back into the wild will now have to be transferred to another facility.

Via wikimedia/Diliff

Marineland in Niagara Falls is now believed to be the only other Canadian facility with cetaceans. Along with dolphins, the park has what it says is the “largest collection of beluga whales in the world.”

Peter Fricker of the Vancouver Humane Society hopes the Vancouver Aquarium's decision - which he has called a major victory for animal welfare - will encourage Marineland to phase out their whale and dolphin program, too.

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