(TMU) — In a big win for animal rights advocates, Canada will no longer allow whales, dolphins and porpoises to be bred and held in captivity for the purpose of entertainment.
The Ending the Captivity of Whales and Dolphins Act, which was passed by Canada’s parliament on Monday, will ensure that cetaceans—or aquatic mammals—will no longer be subject to the trauma of confinement in aquatic entertainment parks, which animal rights activists have blasted as amounting to a system of animal cruelty.
The new law also prevents marine animals from being subject to captive breeding, the import-export market, live captures, and also outlaws the possession of reproductive matter.
However, the bill does include some notable exceptions while allowing for marine mammals who are already held to remain in captivity, including those who were rescued, are being rehabilitated from injuries, or are the subjects of limited scientific research. Aquariums, parks and zoos will be allowed to keep their captive performing cetaceans but can no longer replace them.
The bill, which was tabled by former Sen. Wilfred Moore of Nova Scotia in 2010, hailed the passage of the law in a statement from the Humane Society International/Canada. The former Liberal Party senator said:
“We have a moral obligation to phase out the capture and retention of animals for profit and entertainment. Canadians are calling upon us to do better—and we have listened.”
Animal rights defenders and marine scientists have also celebrated news of the bill’s passage, which they have endorsed through tweets under the hashtags #EmptyTheTanks and #FreeWilly.
#Breaking: When we work together, good things happen.
— Green Party of Canada (@CanadianGreens) June 10, 2019
Experts have argued that whales and dolphins face tremendous psychological and physical suffering while in captivity, including chronic health problems, abnormal behavior, prolonged isolation and extreme boredom, and high infant mortality.
The move brings Canada up to speed with a growing list of countries seeking an end to cetacean captivity. HSI/Canada executive director Rebecca Aldworth described the passage of the bill as a “watershed moment” in the protection of the sea creatures as a well as a victory for the people of Canada who want “a more humane country,” explaining:
“Whales and dolphins don’t belong in tanks, and the inherent suffering these highly social and intelligent animals endure in intensive confinement can no longer be tolerated.”
The two main facilities impacted by the law are Marineland in Niagara Falls and the Vancouver Aquarium. According to CBC, Marineland holds about 61 cetaceans in captivity, including “55 beluga whales, five bottlenose dolphins and one orca.”
While the park initially opposed the ban, Marineland conceded Monday in a statement that its operations have evolved since the park was founded in the 1960s and it would comply with the new legislation.
The Vancouver Aquarium had already bent to public opposition last year with its pledge to no longer hold cetaceans for entertainment purposes. At the time, only one dolphin was being held at the facility.
In a statement released Monday, Vancouver Park Board Chair Stuart Mackinnon said:
“The public told us they believed the continuing importation and display of these intelligent and sociable mammals was unethical and incompatible with evolving public opinion and we amended our bylaws accordingly.”
In 2016, U.S.-based SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment announced an end to breeding captive killer whales and pledged to shift its focus to marine mammal rescue operations instead. The company has SeaWorld Parks in California, Florida and Texas.
Almost 60 orcas are held in captivity worldwide at various parks and aquariums, with about a third of those orcas living in the U.S.—and all but one are captives at SeaWorld Parks in Orlando, San Diego, and San Antonio, National Geographic reports.
Despite the company’s pledges, its main attractions include dolphin shows. The company’s vice president of animal health and welfare, Hendrik Nollens, has defended the shows, claiming that dolphins “are faster than us. They are stronger than us.” Nollens added:
“They are in charge. They choose … They decide whether to do the interaction or not.”
However, Canadian marine scientist Hal Whitehead, who backed the new law, argues:
“The living conditions for captive marine mammals cannot compare to their natural ocean environments in size, nor in quality.”
Dolphin Swims Through Louisiana Neighborhood in Aftermath of Hurricane Ida
A Louisiana family was shocked to find a dolphin swimming through their neighborhood in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida.
Amanda Huling and her family were assessing the damage to their neighborhood in Slidell, Louisiana, when they noticed the dolphin swimming through the inundated suburban landscape.
In video shot by Huling, the marine mammal’s dorsal fin can be seen emerging from the water.
“The dolphin was still there as of last night but I am in contact with an organization who is going to be rescuing it within the next few days if it is still there,” Huling told FOX 35.
Ida slammed into the coast of Louisiana this past weekend. The Category 4 hurricane ravaged the power grid of the region, plunging residents of New Orleans and upwards of 1 million homes and businesses in Louisiana and Mississippi into the dark for an indefinite period of time.
Officials have warned that the damage has been so extensive that it could take weeks to repair the power grid, reports Associated Press.
Also in Slidell, a 71-year-old man was attacked by an alligator over the weekend while he was in his flooded shed. The man went missing and is assumed dead, reports WDSU.
Internet users began growing weary last year about the steady stream of stories belonging to a “nature is healing” genre, as people stayed indoors and stories emerged about animals taking back their environs be it in the sea or in our suburbs.
However, these latest events are the surreal realities of a world in which extreme weather events are fast becoming the new normal – disrupting our lives in sometimes predictable, and occasionally shocking and surreal, ways.
Mom in LA Suburbs Fights Off Mountain Lion With Bare Hands, Rescues 5-Year-Old Son
A mother in Southern California is being hailed as a hero after rescuing her five-year-old son from an attacking mountain lion.
The little boy was playing outside his home in Calabasas, a city lying west of Los Angeles in the Santa Monica Mountains, when the large cat pounced on him.
The 65-pound (30 kg) mountain lion dragged the boy about 45 yards across the front lawn before the mother acted fast, running out and striking the creature with her bare hands and forcing it to free her son.
“The true hero of this story is his mom because she absolutely saved her son’s life,” California Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesman Captain Patrick Foy told Associated Press on Saturday.
“She ran out of the house and started punching and striking the mountain lion with her bare hands and got him off her son,” Foy added.
The boy sustained significant injuries to his head, neck and upper torso, but is now in stable condition at a hospital in Los Angeles, according to authorities.
The mountain lion was later located and killed by an officer with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, who found the big cat crouching in the bushes with its “ears back and hissing” at the officer shortly after he arrived at the property.
“Due to its behavior and proximity to the attack, the warden believed it was likely the attacking lion and to protect public safety shot and killed it on sight,” the wildlife department noted in its statement.
The mountain lion attack is the first such attack on a human in Los Angeles County since 1995, according to Fish and Wildlife.
The Santa Monica Mountains is a biodiverse region teeming with wildlife such as large raptors, mountain lions, bears, coyote, deer, lizards, and snakes. However, their numbers have rapidly faded in recent years, causing local wildlife authorities to find new ways to manage the region’s endemic species.
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Blue Whales Return to Spain’s Coast After Disappearing for 40 Years
Blue whales have been returning to the Atlantic coast of Spain after an absence of over 40 years in the region, when whaling industries drove the species to the brink of extinction.
Blue whales, which are the world’s largest mammals, had long disappeared from the region until the recent sightings.
The first was spotted off the coast of Galicia near Ons Island by marine biologist Bruno Díaz, who heads the Bottlenose Dolphin Research.
Another one of the majestic creatures was spotted the following year in 2018 and yet another in 2019. In 2020, two whales again made their return to the area.
It remains unclear as of yet as to why the creatures have returned to the area, but controls on local whaling industries are believed to play a role.
“I believe the moratorium on whaling has been a key factor,” Díaz remarked, according to the Guardian. “In the 1970s, just before the ban was introduced, an entire generation of blue whales disappeared. Now, more than 40 years later, we’re seeing the return of the descendants of the few that survived.”
Whaling had been a traditional industry in Galicia for hundreds of years before Spain finally acted to ban whaling in 1986, long after the blue whale’s presence in the region had faded away.
Some fear that the return of the massive sea mammals is a sign of global warming.
“I’m pessimistic because there’s a high possibility that climate change is having a major impact on the blue whale’s habitat,” said marine biologist Alfredo López in comments to La Voz de Galicia.
“Firstly, because they never venture south of the equator, and if global warming pushes this line north, their habitat will be reduced,” he continued “And secondly, if it means the food they normally eat is disappearing, then what we’re seeing is dramatic and not something to celebrate.”
Díaz said that while the data certainly supports this theory, it is too early to determine climate as the precise cause.
“It is true that the data we have points to this trend [climate change] but it is not enough yet,” he told Público news.
Another possibility is that the ancestral memory of the old creatures or even a longing for their home may offer an explanation, according to Díaz.
“In recent years it’s been discovered that the blue whale’s migration is driven by memory, not by environmental conditions,” he said. “This year there hasn’t been a notable increase in plankton, but here they are. Experiences are retained in the collective memory and drive the species to return.”
In recent years, researchers have found that migratory patterns are also driven by the cultural knowledge existing in many groups of species.
Researchers believe this type of folk memory, or cultural knowledge, exists in many species and is key to their survival.
A typical blue whale is 20-24 metres long and weighs 120 tonnes – equivalent to 16 elephants – but specimens of up to 30 metres and 170 tonnes have been found.