Marineland Animal Defense is Dead, Long Live Marineland Animal Defense!

March On Marineland
Marineland Animal Defense is Dead, Long Live Marineland Animal Defense! 

In 2009, community members in Niagara decided to revisit demonstrating out front of the captive animal facility Marineland Canada. The previous three years no demonstrations had taken place as part of the fall out of a lawsuit against the then organizing group – Niagara Action for Animals. It was a mix of new and old, and an influx of young activists drove these demonstrations.

Those demonstrations would lead into developing the Marineland Animal Defense campaign – an advocacy campaign dedicated to Marineland to counter their 50th anniversary celebrations in 2011. Inspired by documentaries like The Cove, Sharkwater and Whale Wars, the campaign launched with lofty goals and 40 demonstrators to mark opening day in 2011. Our mission was to end animal captivity at Marineland through increased demonstrations and increased public scrutiny.

Marineland Animal Defense received legal threats from Marineland almost immediately, sending a cease and desist in 2011 claiming trademark infringement of the Marineland name. We pushed on. By opening day 2012 our demonstration neared 100 people and in August of that year, when 7 former employees detailed issues with the facility for the Toronto Star, our demonstrations swelled to 500. Those demonstrations continued to grow – closing 2012 with 800 people and opening 2013 with 1,000 people.

As the crowds grew, so did the legal threats. On December 21, 2012, the day after the Toronto Star ran a front page story on the mass animal graves at Marineland, the facility filed a $1.5 million lawsuit against our campaign and organizer Dylan Powell. To date, that suit would bring an endless string of legal proceedings; two injunction hearings, multiple examinations, a cost order and a constant source of stress. 849 days of civil litigation means that every single media interview, every single demonstration, every single substantive event is met with a similar flood of threats from Marineland’s lawyers. Marineland is a large corporation, we are a grassroots campaign. Without anti-SLAPP legislation they don’t have to measure the costs, the risks, and they are able to control the legal process in a way that we cannot. The legal system assumes a plaintiff would not use the system this way, that it would be against their interests. However, when one party has a mountain of resources and another does not, this is a perfect way of manufacturing silence. MPP’s Jagmeet Singh and Paul Miller have both risen in the legislature to call this lawsuit by Marineland a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP) Suit and both have used it as an example of the need for such legislation. We are grateful and pleased that our experience is being used to stop this practice.

Throughout this we have only been able to carry on as a campaign thanks to a mass amount of support. Even as we have no resources to organize with, and a limited amount of time as well, people have stuck with our campaign and continued to come out in numbers. This made it possible for us to get to this point, as well as made it possible for us to oppose leases of public land by the City of Niagara Falls and all efforts by Marineland to get their wish to get a protest free buffer around their facility against ALL protest. We have always fought to ensure that demonstrations can continue on those small strips of public land outside of the facility. 849 days in we’ve held that ground.

Outside of protecting the ability to demonstrate, we have had success in our goals as a campaign. When we set out in 2011 we aimed to end the import of wild caught marine mammals, end breeding programs on site, remove animals to sanctuary settings, and increase scrutiny and accountability of ownership. As we write this today a bill has been introduced to amend the OSPCA Act to ban the breeding and possession of Orcas in Ontario. Kiska, the last remaining Orca in captivity in Canada, will be grandfathered by the amendment – a sad note, but still a mark of great progress which illustrates that the concerns of advocates are valid and in the public interest. Both an independent scientific panel commissioned by the Government, and a majority of MPP’s have come to this same conclusion – Orca captivity is a 51 year failed experiment in Canada. For Orcas, the end is in sight. Alongside this, Marineland has not engaged in any substantive import of wild caught animals since our campaign developed. Increased media scrutiny is not the best environment for the import of new animals from Russia, where Marineland almost exclusively sources wild caught animals. Marineland knows this. We have been unsuccessful in removing any animals to settings of care and Marineland will carry on with the market share of captive belugas in North America – attempting to shift the industry towards beluga performances and feeding. No one knows if they will be successful though, and in previous lawsuits like the custody suit surrounding SeaWorld and the Orca Ikaika, Marineland argued that without Orcas their business is unlikely to survive. With declining attendance across the industry, we hope this provides a space for these facilities to truly shift their practices away from animal captivity. There is no reason why this facility cannot transition and develop into a full theme park without animals. Canada’s Wonderland – another Ontario theme park – moved away from animal shows in the mid 1990’s and today operates successfully with thousands of more jobs than Marineland. We need to confront our criticism of Marineland not with the fear of what would happen without them – but mindful of the alternatives that we continue to let pass by while we accept the status quo. This isn’t working, and the longer we ignore that fact, the more those opportunities pass us by.

With all of this in mind, we have reached a position where any further Provincial change is unlikely and where Federal change, like the full closure of the wild capture loophole, is currently off the table. Alongside this, for the past year other individuals and groups have been organizing demonstrations within our demonstrations. This means that we have borne the brunt of policing and legal concerns, for groups and individuals that may or may not be interested in our campaign. Taking stock of the coming campaign year, the risk/reward axis is bending in the wrong direction. These were risks we could accept based upon the knowledge that political change was still possible. Within this environment, moving forward as a campaign is tenuous at best. If other groups and individuals are already organizing demonstrations within our demonstrations, it also calls into question the need for what we can do as a campaign with our 52nd demonstration that we haven’t accomplished with the previous 51. A large part of the success of our campaign has been making opposing the facility a routine or habit – every winter and early spring, parents use our site as a resource to oppose school trips, and every opening day, labour day and closing day people come out to protest. People do this because they are concerned about animals captive at Marineland – not because they are attached to the minutiae of grassroots animal advocacy campaigning or leadership. We know that closing down this campaign will not mean the end of opposition to Marineland and we are also confident that demonstrations will continue on in our absence. All of this makes this announcement easier for us.

Effective immediately, the Marineland Animal Defense campaign is no more. We do this on our own terms, based upon our own analysis, and not tied to any legal proceeding. We do this fully believing that animal captivity at Marineland, aside from being unethical, is completely unsustainable as a business practice. They will outlive our campaign, but the writing is on the wall for all to see.

We regret not being able to carry out one last demonstration, or the Children’s March, and urge future organizers to continue to make the voices of children and families a priority in what you do. Every time we have, the result has been our most successful and powerful demonstrations. We also encourage people to continue to demonstrate within the bounds of the law and also to support and respect anyone who steps up to fill any void. Marineland will continue to use litigation as a way to silence critics – filing at least 8 lawsuits over the last three years. Everyone sued deserves a defense and everyone should still stay focused on supporting anti SLAPP legislation which would finally create a barrier to this legal strategy. We don’t expect Marineland to drop our suit and this leaves our organizer Dylan Powell in a precarious situation. Although our campaign is over, please don’t forget this suit is still active.

Over the next little while we will be sending out thank you cards to past donors, making sure all previous t-shirt orders are filed and shipped and tying up loose ends. Our email will remain active even if our social media accounts are down – [email protected] – but we do hope to keep everything up as an archive.

We have stood on the shoulders of a 30+ year history of opposition to Marineland and created a campaign that punched far above its weight. 1,000’s of people have protested this facility since the very first 2 person Greenpeace demonstration opposing the arrival of Orcas at the facility in September 1975. Teachers, lawyers, nurses, veterinarians, professors, grandparents, students, families, children – all ages, all backgrounds, all brought together by a concern for captive animals. Our power was always in people, in creating spaces where every individual could feel like their voice mattered. We will remember the early days and all those who stood their ground in the face of threats in 2011, the emotion of 2012, the hope Vijay created in 2013 with his 1,000+ origami whales and the electricity as we marched through the tourist district of Niagara Falls in 2014. We will remember the children we have watched grow over the span of this campaign and place our faith in their resolve and their dedication to build a better world for other animals. We will remember those who we have lost – like Steven Watson who inspired this campaign, and Sheila White who was one of its most dedicated supporters. We will also never forget that we accomplished what we have using a grassroots model. We never had support or funding from any non profits, never had staff and it never held us back. We don’t have to wait for others to do this work for us, or rely solely on politicians to create change – we can join together and do that ourselves. Above all else, Marineland Animal Defense was a campaign meant to inspire others to take up this call – no matter what kind of justice it is you fight for. We close today proud of what we have accomplished, hopeful for what is to come out of it, and dedicated to the idea that we live, work, play and struggle in the communities we create. Compassion, justice, equity, are all important values we can incorporate into our lives on a daily basis and on broad terms. Refusing to see wild animals as commodities, as assets and profits, should be part of a larger project to revise a society that made such things possible in the first place. At our best moments, together, our energy pointed to this – another world is possible.

Marineland Animal Defense is Dead, Long Live Marineland Animal Defense!

What Do MPP’s in Ontario Think About Marineland?

Captive Beluga at Marineland. Cred: Jo-Ann McArthur (We Animals)

Captive Beluga at Marineland. Cred: Jo-Ann McArthur (We Animals)

Bill 80, which carries amendments to the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty (OSPCA) Act was debated earlier this week in the Legislature. The bill would introduce the first ever industry specific regulations and also ban the possession or breeding of a captive Orca after the date the bill was first introduced – March 23, 2015. The Bill is the end result of nearly three years of consultation and research and comes out of suggestions from a report chaired by United of British Columbia Scientist David Rosen as well as an industry report prepared by the Canadian Association for Zoos and Aquariums.

The debate earlier this week was the second reading and the first chance for MPP’s to actually comment on the bill. That discussion saw MPP’s offering up honest opinions on Marineland and saw many sounding exactly like the “radical animal liberationists” who protest against the park. We want their words to speak for themselves – so below is a highlight of some of the best comments. Only a few Conservative MPP’s spoke out against the amendments, and so far the amendments have the full support of the Majority Liberals and the NDP. You can always follow debate on this bill on the Legislative Assembly site. While reading these comments, keep in mind that people have been sued for millions of dollars by Marineland for saying these exact things.

Ann Hogarth (Barrie / Liberal) – “Marine mammals are complex, diverse and magnificent creatures with unique needs that require the right standards of care. However, they are far more magnificent and awe-inspiring when they are in their natural environment…”

“The students in Ontario classrooms believe that these wonderful creatures deserve the best care as well. They are in favour of this. You might think that they aren’t, but my little kindergarteners, when we talked about this, made it very clear that they think they should be free in the ocean where they belong

You have a much better look at marine animals on the Internet or somewhere else than if you’ve ever gone to Marineland—and I must tell you that one of the most wonderful trips our family ever had was to Marineland, but the part that my children liked the best was at the petting zoo. It was not watching poor Kiska. If you have ever been sprayed by that water from Kiska’s pool, you know that we need this legislation. You would walk around for the rest of the day smelling quite nasty because of that pool water.

We need to pass this bill immediately.”

Bas Balkissoon (Scarborough / Liberal) – “I’m proud to join the minister in speaking in support of our government’s proposed amendments to the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, and to join the growing chorus of Ontarians and people around the world who are demanding better care and treatment for marine mammals.”

“I say to everyone, this is about protecting the animals. But as I mentioned in my deliberation, the ministry gets a lot of mail, and this file has probably the most mail we receive on many occasions. Some of you may remember the incident at Marineland a couple of years ago. This is as a result of that. The government is taking action, as requested by the public.

I think this is the job we’re here for. We’re here to respond to the public when there’s a serious concern, especially when it comes to animal welfare. Animals can’t express to you their dissatisfaction like human beings can. We have to take the lead from the public, which has seen what has happened in that situation. As a government, we have to take the appropriate action to make sure we protect these animals.

This bill is just another step in the right direction to provide the community with what they were asking us to do. We’re looking at experts in the field who will provide us with a management plan and a proper care plan so that anyone who has one of these mammals in captivity would be required to do the right thing.”

Yasir Naqvi (Ottawa Centre / Liberal) – “In October 2003, we asked Dr. David Rosen, a respected marine biologist with the University of British Columbia, to lead a team of experts to prepare a report on the care and maintenance of marine mammals in captivity. Dr. Rosen’s report is available on the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services’ website. Ultimately, his report showed that our current standards are inadequate”

Lou Rinaldi (Quinte West / Liberal)“I find it hard to understand how human beings are able to sit back and, for enjoyment, watch whales like Kiska in a tank. Frankly, it’s like being in prison, I would think…”

Cheri DiNovo (High Park / NDP) – “…my goodness, just because you have a lot of money, you shouldn’t be able to get a whale and keep it in a bathtub.”

Mr. Michael Mantha (Algoma-Manitoulin / NDP) – As a father, what did you do when you were from northern Ontario? You came down to Marineland. You went out and visited the orcas; you went out and visited the whales; and you went out to the facilities where these beautiful creatures were swimming in their environment. It reflected a couple of questions that my kids would ask me: “Where are they going after we leave, Dad?” So it made me think some more.

Listening to what the member from Parkdale–High Park said—sometimes you have to stand up for the most vulnerable. It really clicked in to me. It just jogged something in my mind.

Again, as a father, when you’re back home and you’re talking to your kids—would we accept walking by the yard of somebody who has a dog, on about a two-foot chain, running around in a circle? What would I say to my kids there? It makes you think. This makes you think.

We have a responsibility here as legislators as to—if you don’t have a position and you don’t know what to feel, it’s your job to go out and find people who are passionate about the issue, to find out what it means to them.

I do want to add that the powers of an animal are great. I need to introduce you to my dog, Abby, at home. She does have control over me, and she does make me do certain things, and I do wonderful tricks with her. But she’s part of my family. She’s a family member. That’s the difference.”

Kiska Will Be the Last Captive Orca Ever in Canada

Credit: Jo Anne McArthur (We Animals)

Credit: Jo Anne McArthur (We Animals)

Community Safety and Correctional Services Minister Yasir Naqvi updated the public on his proposed regulations for marine mammals in Ontario with a press conference this morning. With the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals as part of his portfolio, Naqvi is bringing forward an amendment to the OSPCA Act today that will make the possession and breeding of an Ocra illegal, with the last remaining captive Orca Kiska being grandfathered. Based off of some recommendations of the Rosen Report scientific panel on marine mammal regulations, as well as the Canadian Association for Zoos and Aquariums (CAZA), Naqvi also updated today that new regulations would include; technical committees to oversee facilities, new regulations for tank sizes and enclosures, regulations for contact, lighting, noise water, handling and display, as well as, new administrative requirements for record keeping and inventory.

Overall, the language used today in this announcement was scaled back and softened from Naqvi’s previous announcement in January. Although Naqvi made no mention of the CAZA report, his announcement today is now closer to that industry report than the stricter language of the Rosen Report – with the most notable omission being no language on a formula or criteria for ALL wild capture. If this is the case, Marineland – who were learned today sits on the advisory panel over enforcement – has been successful in lobbying against restrictions that would place barriers on them importing more wild caught belugas and dolphins from Russia. This would be a major roll back. Naqvi’s unwillingness to talk about any animals other than Orca’s at his press conference today is troubling and could be another sign of Marineland’s successful efforts to block this substantive and recommended change.

Still, through this process we are at a place where it appears definitive that Kiska will be the last captive Orca ever in Canada. After SeaWorld successfully sued and got their Orca Ikaika back from Marineland, the facility has showed a willingness to import another Orca. They were unsuccessful, but this amendment ensures that they cannot revisit that, or revisit any attempts to breed or artificially inseminate Kiska. For a country with a 51 year history of Orca captivity, which has seen dozens of captive Orcas suffer for human profit, this ensures that history ends with Kiska. That is substantive.

Obvious questions still remain and these are the questions that we have put to Yasir Naqvi in response to the announcement today.

1. Will the “administrative record keeping” for inventory be publicly accessible?
2. Who is on the advisory panel for the enforcement of these new regulations?
3. Who has lobbied your office on these amendments?
4. The Rosen Report set out a criteria for ANY future import of a wild caught marine mammal – what happened to that language?
5. What are you hopes for successful enforcement against multi-millionaries? What is the current success rate of OSPCA convictions against individuals worth over $1 million?
6. Will new tank size standards see Marineland alter their facilities in any way?
7. Who decides who gets to sit on new “technical committees”?

Will Niagara Falls City Council Stop Close Door Meetings with Marineland?

Photo by Jo Ann McArthur (We Animals)

Photo by Jo Ann McArthur (We Animals)

After months of investigation the Ombudsman’s Office delivered their report to Niagara Falls City Council this week concerning our complaint against City Council regarding closed door private meetings, as well as, a separate complaint regarding an in camera session in regards to a downtown University. The reports were framed a specific way in local press, one exonerating City Council (our complaint) and one finding their in camera session illegal (downtown University). None of the local journalists who covered the report wrote about our complaint back in October, and it appears they didn’t rely on it in reporting this time around either. Covering some of the basic misconceptions will help everyone as we move forward with what exactly our true aims are.

First, in talking about the report, the focus has been on an in camera complaint surrounding a Council meeting in regards to land leases to Marineland – this was a closed in camera Council session on May 29, 2012. All local media have centred on this, and this only, as the complaint registered regarding Marineland. The problem with this is, this in camera session was never part of our complaint. Our complaint, filed last October, can be read here along with the press release that went out. Our issue was with the “closed door” or “operational” or “special meetings” that took place without any public notice and which were only referred to in emails obtained through Freedom of Information. The May 29, 2012 meeting was never part of our complaint because we already knew it fell under exceptions to the Municipal Act. When we asked for clarification from the Ombuds office on this point they relayed and confirmed this was not part of our complaint, but that they investigated that in camera session anyways as a form of due diligence on the issue. The effect this has had is that the City Council has used this as an example of vindication, for a complaint that was never publicly made. This has also drawn away from the actual substance of our complaint – which revolves not around in camera Council session, but closed door meetings outside of Council.

What is the substance of our actual complaint? We knew through FOI emails that the City of Niagara Falls had carried out at least three closed door meetings with Marineland. We didn’t know exact dates, and we didn’t know who exactly was there. We asked for this information from the City, repeatedly, from 2012 onwards and every single time they refused to provide it. Without that information we could not know if a) a quorum of Council was present b) if they moved Council business forward during these closed private sessions. This is the reason we filed a complaint with the Ombudsman. From the Ombudsman report we now know that there were at least four “operational meetings” took place:

1. July 29, 2011: Mayor Diodati, Councillor Thomson, a representative from the Niagara Regional Police, and the owner of Marineland were present;

2. October, 6, 2011: Mayor Diodati, Councillors Thomson and Kerrio, the Clerk and four other staff members, representatives from Niagara Regional Police, the owner of Marineland, and the head of security at Marineland were present.

3. March 28, 2012: Mayor Diodati, Councillor Thomson, the Clerk and the Chief Administrative Officer were present.

4. June 18, 2013: Mayor Diodati, Councillor Thomson, staff members, representatives from Niagara Regional Police, the owner of Marineland, and Marineland’s solicitor were present.

Those original meetings predate the land leases by almost a year, and leasing land was discussed at these meetings, however, the Ombudsman still ruled that these meetings did not “move Council business forward.” This is a point we disagree with the Ombudsman on, however, in combination with emails obtained through FOI we now have a better picture of when those meetings took place and who attended. It is important to note that all of this could have been avoided if the City of Niagara Falls would have just provided us with this information years ago when asked. Hopefully after having been through this process now we hope this will alter their behaviour in the future.

On that point, we have repeated our ask to the City of Niagara Falls and to the Niagara Regional Police to no longer hold any “operational meetings” behind closed doors with Marineland Canada. Discussions over land leases and conversations on policing of demonstrations need to happen with everyone involved, or in front of Council. For months now we have been asking for a stakeholders meeting to deal with public safety concerns surrounding the WeGo bus stop land lease and the situation it creates with hundreds of demonstrators having to cross Portage Rd. on a bend. These sight line and safety concerns have been echoed by the Niagara Regional Police, and in the past if they are not present to usher people across the roadway the situation becomes very dangerous for motorists and pedestrians. So far, no luck. Surely the safety concerns of hundreds of people outweigh leasing of small parcels of public land to a private business.

Until we see the level of transparency and accountability we feel is necessary from City Council we will continue with FOI efforts and Ombudsman complaints when relevant. This includes a continued and renewed ask to end closed door “operational meetings” outside of Council, enforcement of By Laws against Marineland, as well as a call to end and rollback land leases or at least update them to include transitory rights that would allow demonstrators to safely walk along Portage Rd. without needing a police escort. We do not feel like these asks are extreme and we do feel that they reflect the best interests of the public, not just demonstrators.

For anyone who wants a longer history of our campaigns relationship with Niagara Falls City Hall you can find that here.

M.A.D. E-News: You Changed the Course of History for Marine Mammals in Canada

March On Marineland

This week the Provincial Government in Ontario unveiled recommendations from two reports, and signalled that they will be tabling a bill to ban the sale and acquisition of Orcas. These announcements came out of a two and a half year process – a process that began on October 9, 2012, immediately after advocates stormed Marineland on Closing Day in October 2012.

The 20+ demonstrations and events since, the countless emails, faxes and phone calls, and the endless conversations at kitchen tables, parent/teacher meetings, and at work have paid off – Marineland will never be the same and they will never have another Orca. On top of that, if passed, recommendations from the Rosen Report will severely restrict their ability to import ANY new wild caught animals. This is good news.

The only caution? It will take another committee and at least 6 months for these recommendations to be added to the OSPCA Act and for this bill to pass. In that time, Marineland has at least two registered lobbyists with close connections to the Liberal Party who we believe will be working hard. We have to keep the pressure up to counter that influence.

We’ve been doing media all week, including this spot on CTV News, but we wanted to take the time to share this news with everyone and also let you in on what the next couple of months will look like.

When this announcement came down this week an 8 month period of relative legal calm was broken by a flood of threats and actions by Marineland’s corporate lawyers. This is typical of how they use the legal system to try and scare us into not speaking out publicly. Thanks to your support we have already survived 770 days of litigation and managed to continue to organize with a $1.5 million dollar SLAPP suit hanging over head. We couldn’t do this alone and we can’t continue to do with this without support. We need your help.

Beyond that, it is the off season, but we are still busy with speaking events at Universities, tabling and doing outreach, and preparing for the upcoming season. Today a call for submissions went out for the 2nd Annual March on Marineland. This year the March will be led by children and families and we are compiling a zine to encourage children to express themselves and their passion to see the animals at Marineland set free. On top of this, we will now begin in earnest a three month fundraising campaign to rebuild our legal fund, design and mass produce new leaflets and outreach materials, and also build up our event equipment so we don’t have to keep renting – generator, PA system, editing equipment. If we shatter the goals we have set for ourselves – who wouldn’t love to see a billboard shaming Marineland right in Niagara Falls?

We just got a massive policy win this week. Marineland has operated for 54 years without regulation and that just ended. Everything will get tougher for them, but this also means they are going to give us their best punch. All the effort, all the passion, we have to channel it and stay focused. We are one step closer to a day where captive animal facilities like Marineland no longer exist. Let’s keep going!

Marineland Animal Defense

The Children’s March on Marineland Zine: Call for Submissions!


This year we will be opening up the Marineland season with the 2nd Annual “March on Marineland.” For those who remember the event last year, 500 advocates marched through the tourist district of Niagara Falls and onto the facility – a historic first in the history of opposition to Marineland. This year, we are letting the kids lead!

So much of our record setting history is tied back to youth advocacy and the role that children and families play in our demonstrations – from kids and parents fighting for an end to school trips, to our 1,000 people origami demonstration in May 2013 led by Vijay. We want to acknowledge and continue on with this by not only having kids and families lead the march – but by compiling a zine for the day that we will mass produce for everyone on the march.

What are we looking for? Short stories, art, poems, drawings, essays – any form of expression from kids and families that we can fit into a zine to print out and share. If any keen crafting and editing parents or kids want to sign on as well to assemble – hands in. You can submit any time from now until April 15th to [email protected]

What Does the Proposed Overhaul at Marineland Mean Going Forward?

Credit: Jo Anne McArthur (We Animals)

Credit: Jo Anne McArthur (We Animals)

We were not expecting this. Like many, we first found out about this announcement when Star reporters started to tweet out their front page (A1) coverage last night and like everyone else we found out the substance of the changes in news coverage this morning. This is a lot to digest, on a short timeline, and a lot of people have questions. Also, the process itself is very convoluted, and it is easy to stray from what was said and actually being implemented.

A quick history on where these changes began – on August 15, 2012 the Toronto Star published testimony of seven former employees at Marineland who alleged substantive issues within the facility. On August 23, 2012 the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA) announced they were launching an investigation into the “state of the facility.” That investigation ran until spring 2013 and out of frustrations over capacity, conflicts between the Provincial Liberals and the OSPCA over interpretation and jurisdiction, and an overwhelmingly negative public response, the Liberals announced that they would trigger a consultation process for the Province’s first ever captive marine mammal regulations. All of this happens before the release of the documentary film “Blackfish” – for perspective. That internal process that was created is the Rosen Report – delivered to the Liberals in May 2014 and the substance of many of the changes announced today. At the same time the Rosen Report was being made, the Canadian Council for Animal Care (CCAC) and the Canadian Association for Zoos and Aquariums was organizing a similar industry panel to draft up new regulations and guidelines for care. Their reports were delivered in December of 2014. Most likely, the Liberals were holding off this announcement until the CCAC had finished their process.

Ultimately, although the CCAC report and the Rosen Report differ on key points, it is the recommendation of the Rosen Report that both be accepted into law and added onto the OSPCA Act. This would mean regulations would be a combination of the industry regulation process, alongside the independent scientific report. The most notable discrepancies between the CCAC report and the Rosen Report are much stronger language and barriers against the importation of wild caught animals, and the development of a publicly accessible inventory for births and deaths of animals. Both reports stress the importance of developing Animal Welfare Committees as well as developing standards on tank sizes, interactions, environmental stressors, etc.

On top of those recommendations, and independent from them as they were not suggested by either, Community Safety and Correctional Services Minister Yasir Naqvi announced today that he will be tabling a bill to prohibit the acquisition and breeding of captive Orca’s in the Province. This can be read in two ways; either this is a symbolic controlled burn as Marineland only has one Orca left and they looked unlikely to be able to ever attain another, or this is a serious barrier in place that could trigger Marineland transitioning their “collection.” Marineland has signalled that they oppose this and claim that wild capture is dealt with through international treaties. Although Marineland only has one Orca left, they also have the market share of captive belugas in North America. Parks like the Georgia Aquarium have been denied permits to import wild caught belugas and many parks across North America are interested in obtaining belugas from Marineland. If Kiska becomes a zero asset with this announcement, this may force Marineland into packaging some of their belugas and excepting that their long term viability does not exist. We will see.

The specific focus on Orcas is troubling for many advocates who want to know why other marine mammals are left out. For those people I would highly suggest reading the section on wild capture in the Rosen Report. The formula set out within it, which they believe a facility should meet, is very strict and a serious barrier for Marineland to import ANY animals. They would have to prove that the animal is necessary beyond just “building a collection,” they would have to show that the capture would not have negative impacts on wild populations, and they have to show that they have done everything possible to first source that animal from an already captive/captive bred situation. This will be tough for Marineland to meet, if not impossible.

The most troubling part of the announcement today is that there will be another committee and another 6 months before implementation. This is a already a two and a half year process to this point and adding on any more time and more committees just leaves more room for the industry to try and lobbying these regulations back towards the CCAC guidelines and away from the stronger points of the Rosen Report and Naqvi’s bill. Marineland has two lobbyists at the Provincial level, both with strong ties to the Liberal Party – Bob Lopinski and John Beattie. This gives them 6 months to do work. It is incumbent upon all advocates to keep following this issue, continue to contact Naqvi and to continue to advocate and counter this influence. Do not let up, keep coming to demonstrations, don’t let them slip something watered down through 6 months down the road.

For others with an interest, we live tweeted our reactions to the first section of the Rosen Report with the hashtag #RosenReport. Check that out for more analysis and chime in yourself. One step should only have us focused on the next one. For 54 years Marineland has been able to run without regulations for captive marine mammals. Today, that ended. Let’s keep going!

Marineland Animal Defense