Marine Mammals

ZC21 015Whales and dolphins are routinely caught from the wild for public display facilities around the world. They are among the most unsuitable animals for captivity. Despite this, there are no federal laws preventing Canadian marine parks and aquariums from purchasing and importing whales and dolphins captured from the wild in other countries.

The Vancouver Aquarium and Marineland of Canada are the only two Canadian facilities that currently display whales and dolphins, including wild-caught individuals.  Proposals for new captive whale and dolphin displays are regularly brought forward in other locations across the country.

Zoocheck is working to raise public awareness and concern about the capture, importation and confinement of whales and dolphins in Canadian marine parks and aquariums, and to promote, whenever possible, a prohibition on their importation.


Marineland, a marine/amusement park located in Niagara Falls, Ontario, is one of the most widely publicized and controversial captive facilities in Canada. Established more than four decades ago, Marineland has been the target of intense local, regional and international criticism for keeping whales (they currently house the largest group of captive belugas in the world), dolphins and pinnipeds; for its ongoing removal of significant numbers of whales, dolphins and pinnipeds from the wild; and for providing their terrestrial animal species with barren, often overcrowded conditions. Zoocheck has conducted numerous investigations and highlighted problematic conditions and practices at Marineland to relevant local, regional and national authorities, media and the public.


The Vancouver Aquarium (VA) was started in 1956 as a tiny operation with seven employees. Gradually it expanded into a 9,290 sq m (100,000 sq ft) facility with 385 staff. It is now Canada’s largest aquarium and houses approximately 70,000 individual animals, ranging from invertebrates to whales. In 2001, the VA shipped Bjossa, their sole surviving orca, to Sea World, San Diego effectively ending their display of killer whales. However, the aquarium continues to display beluga whales, dolphins, pinnipeds and hundreds of other aquatic species. The VA has generated considerable controversy throughout the years, particularly for its practice of keeping marine mammals (e.g., whales, dolphins) and for several expansion proposals.

Zoocheck has opposed the keeping of marine mammals at the VA, publicly expressed concerns over other aspects of the VA operation, actively opposed their expansion plans and will continue to do so in future.


  • Join the growing number of people worldwide who have decided not to visit aquariums, marine parks, swim-with-the-dolphin facilities and other places that keep captive whales, dolphins and other marine mammals. Deciding to stay away from these businesses is a significant and important first step in preventing marine mammals from being confined and dominated for our amusement.
  • Let aquariums, marine parks and their corporate sponsors know why you will not patronize their businesses. Watch the documentary Vancouver Aquarium Uncovered and share it widely!
  • Make your family, friends and co-workers aware of the reality of aquariums and marine parks.
  • Write a letter-to-the-editor, so even more people are informed.
  • Don’t let your child attend school field trips to aquariums and marine parks. Inform your child’s school and your local school board about why you believe these businesses are not appropriate for school visits.
  • Urge the Minister to pass laws to protect whales, dolphins and other marine mammals. At the present time, they have very little legal protection in Canada. Urge the Minister to extend and solidify Canada’s current ban on the capture of beluga whales in Canadian waters for export to foreign aquaria and to include Canadian facilities in the prohibition as well. Request that imports of whales, dolphins and other marine mammals from other jurisdictions also be prohibited. Send a letter to:

Minister of Fisheries and Oceans
House of Commons, Centennial Towers
200 Kent Street, Suite 1570
Ottawa, ON K1A 0E6
(no postage required in Canada)
Fax (613) 990-7292


Sea World and Blackfish (2014)  A response by Barry Kent MacKay to Sea World’s commentary about the film Blackfish.

Keto & Tilikum Express the Stress of Orca Captivity (2011) The Orca Project.

Killer Controversy, why orcas should no longer be kept in captivity (2011) HSI/ HSUS.

The Case Against Marine Mammals in Captivity (2009) HSUS/WSPA.

Aquatic animals, cognitive ethology, and ethics: questions about sentience and other troubling issues that lurk in turbid water (2007) Marc Bekoff.

Dolphin Assisted Therapy, Can you put your faith in DAT? (2007) WDCS.

Dolphin-Assisted Therapy: More Flawed Data and More Flawed Conclusions (2007) Lori Marino & Scott O. Lilienfeld.

Driven by Demand, Dolphin drive hunts in Japan and the involvement of the aquarium industry (2006) WDCS.

Captive Cetaceans: The Science Behind The Ethics (2004) Naomi Rose.

Suffering, Not Smiling: The Truth About Captive Dolphins (2004) ACRES.

Comments on the First Draft Of “Canadian Council on Animal Care (CCAC) Guidelines On: The Care and Maintenance of Marine Mammals: (2004) Zoocheck.

Stopping the use, sale and trade of whales and dolphins in Canada: How protection is consistent with WTO obligations (2003) Zoocheck.

Captive Orcas, Dying to Entertain You (2001) WDCS.

Distorted Nature, Exposing the Myth of Marineland (1998) Zoocheck.

A Review of the Scientific Justification for. Maintaining Cetaceans in Captivity (1998) WDCS.

The West Edmonton Mall Dolphins: Options for the Future (1996) Zoocheck.

Cetacean Releases Examples (1995)

No Biodome Belugas, Backgrounder (1995) Zoocheck/CFHS.