Canada launches public consultations on policies that support ending captivity of whales, dolphins and porpoises

From: Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Ottawa, ON – The Government of Canada understands that cetaceans, which includes whales, dolphins and porpoises should be enjoyed in the wild, not in captivity.

Today, the Honourable Bernadette Jordan, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans, and the Canadian Coast Guard, launched a 90-day online public consultation on a suite of policies that implement legislative changes to the Fisheries Act, which came into force last year.

The policies will provide guidance for the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard to grant or deny authorizations related to:

  • specific circumstances under which a whale, dolphin or porpoise may be taken it into captivity;
  • the import or export of living whales, dolphins or porpoises, as well as their reproductive materials, into or out of Canada;
  • scientific research involving whales, dolphins or porpoises; and
  • circumstances in which a whale, dolphin or porpoise may be kept in captivity for their health and well-being.

These new policies are being introduced as a result of June 2019 amendments made to the Criminal Code and Fisheries Act aimed at ending the captivity of these animals. These legislative changes set out a very specific set of circumstances in which whales, dolphins and porpoises, as a last resort, can be removed from their natural habitat.

The public consultation will be open until November 18, 2020. Submissions can be made through the Consulting with Canadians website.


“Like Canadians across the country, our Government understands that whales, dolphins and porpoises should be enjoyed in the wild, not on display behind glass walls. These new policies will help end their captivity across the country and ensure those already in captivity will not be imported or exported into or from Canada, unless it is in the best interest of their health, welfare, or for strong scientific reasons.”

The Honourable Bernadette Jordan, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard

Quick facts

  • There are only two aquaria in Canada that hold cetaceans: the Vancouver Aquarium (managed by Ocean Wise) in British Columbia, and Marineland in Ontario.

    • The Vancouver Aquarium has one cetacean in captivity: a 30-year-old Pacific White-sided dolphin. In January 2018, the Vancouver Aquarium announced that it would no longer hold cetaceans in captivity for public display, with the exception of its one remaining dolphin.
    • Marineland holds one Orca whale, five Bottlenose dolphins, and a population of more than 50 Beluga whales.
  • Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) has not issued a permit to capture a cetacean from the wild for the purposes of public display since the early 1990s.

  • DFO is responsible for the conservation and protection of Canada’s marine resources, including wild marine mammals, as set out in the Marine Mammal Regulations. We achieve this through regulation, research, education, policies, and management plans.

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