Comment on Ontario’s Proposed Marine Mammal Standards

NOTE: Period for comments has closed

During the past several years, there has been a great deal of discussion about marine mammals in captivity in Ontario. That eventually led to the Ontario Legislature passing Bill 80, the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA) Amendment Act on May 28, 2015.

The Bill does two things:

  • Prohibits the breeding and possession of orcas in Ontario (except Marineland’s lone orca Kiska).
  • Expands the existing regulation-making authority under the OSPCA Act to allow the Minister to establish additional administrative requirements related to management, oversight practices, professional services, and collecting and disclosing information, intended to ensure the appropriate care of an animal.

While we would have liked Ontario to ban the keeping of whales and dolphins entirely, that wasn’t what they chose to do. Instead, the government is now working on regulations, administered through the OSPCA Act, for the keeping of marine mammals in captivity. While there are some positive aspects to what is being proposed, there are many deficiencies that will make the regulations weak and difficult, if not impossible, to enforce. Unless these deficiencies are addressed, the situation in Ontario may not change very much at all. Here is what is needed to improve the regulations and make them stronger.

1. A requirement for primary veterinarians in charge of marine mammals and consulting veterinarians to have training, experience and expertise in marine mammals.

2. A requirement that enrichment activities and programs to keep animals occupied comprise a substantial portion of each day and that a senior staff member be identified as having responsibility for coordinating the development, delivery, oversight and evaluation of all enrichment activities and programs.

3. A requirement that all social animals be given companionship (including Kiska at Marineland) with compatible members of their own species or another similar species.

4. A requirement that all marine mammals be provided with multiple privacy/refuge areas so individual animals can remove themselves from the view of other animals, particularly important when many individuals are housed together and may be subject to aggression (bullying).

5. A requirement for seals, sea lions and walruses (pinnipeds) to be kept outdoors for a significant percentage of daylight hours on a permanent, partial or rotating basis, so they have opportunities to experience natural sunlight and conditions, except warm weather species during the colder months where temperatures would cause them discomfort and suffering.

6. A requirement that inventory reports and necropsy reports be submitted to the Ontario government and made available to the public.

7. Replacement or clarification of numerous words (e.g., adequate, intended) that make parts of the standards subject to a wide degree of interpretation and, for all intents and purposes, unenforceable.

For more details about the Consultation notice or the proposed standards, please:

Read the Government of Ontario consultation notice

Read the proposed Standards of Care and Administrative Standards

Read the Cover Letter and group submission from Zoocheck, Canadian Federation of Humane Societies and World Animal Protection

See photos of behind the scenes at Marineland in this Toronto Star post and CKTB post.

If you are concerned about any aspect of the proposed standards or would just like to voice your opinion, please email a version of this sample letter and/or your comments to or submit your comments ONLINE.

Note: To submit online you must scroll down page to “Comment on this proposal by email” link.

September 14, 2015 is the deadline for submissions.

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