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Canada: 'Free Willy' bill bans dolphin and whale captivity

Canada: 'Free Willy' bill bans dolphin and whale captivity

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The new law also shuts down the cetacean trade by banning the import and export of whales and dolphins.

Legislation passed Monday in Ottawa bans keeping whales and dolphins in captivity.

Marineland in Niagara Falls and the Vancouver Aquarium in British Columbia are the only two facilities in Canada that now keep captive cetaceans. But aquariums - Canada now has two facilities that keep dolphins and whales in captivity - may have seen the writing on the wall long before the bill began its journey through the nation's legislative gauntlet in 2015.

"[The park] has enough beluga whales in existence to probably continue for another 30 years, so no jobs are going to be lost as a result of this in the immediate future", Senator Murray Sinclair, the former judge who previously ushered the bill through parliament was quoted as saying by Canadian news agency CBC.

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"The passage of Bill S-203 is a watershed moment in the protection of marine animals and a victory for all Canadians", Rebecca Aldworth, Executive Director of Humane Society International Canada, said in a press release about the win. "Scientific evidence shows that confining whales and dolphins causes them physical and mental pain and suffering".

The bill, which is expected to become law, took several years to pass in the House of Commons after it was initially introduced in 2015.

Facilities that already have marine animals, however, will be allowed to keep them under the bill's grandfather clause.

Conservation groups and NGOs have been pushing for the ban for years, many arguing that cetaceans' high levels of intelligence made prolonged captivity a form of animal cruelty.

'This is such an important law because it bans breeding, making sure the whales and dolphins now kept in tiny tanks in Canada are the last generation to suffer, ' Melissa Matlow, campaign director for World Animal Protection Canada, said in a statement.


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