Aquariums & Marine Mammals

Canada bans the captivity of whales, dolphins and porpoises for public display and entertainment!

On June 21 2019, the captivity of whales, dolphins and porpoises for public display and entertainment became illegal in Canada when Bill S-203, An to amend the Criminal Code and other acts (ending the captivity of whales and dolphins) received royal assent. Zoocheck was pleased to be one of the organizations supporting Bill S-203 and lobbying for its adoption.

Bill S-203 amended the Criminal Code (and other legislation) and established fines of up to $200,000 for breaking the law. Importation, possession, public display, entertainment and breeding of whales and dolphins is now illegal in Canada, with only a few specific exceptions.

Whales, dolphins and porpoises already held captive in Canada were grandfathered (meaning they could stay in Canada) and those needing care or rehabilitation could be allowed as well. Only one facility, Marineland in Niagara Falls, Ontario, currently keeps whales and dolphins but, as of July 2023, that business is reportedly up for sale. We are monitoring the situation with the belugas and dolphins that still remain at Marineland (as are other people and organizations) and will post additional information as it becomes available.


Zoocheck campaigned vigorously for decades against the importation of wild caught whales, dolphins and porpoises into Canada, their capture in Canadian waters and export to other countries, their keeping in zoos and aquariums and their use in entertainment.

Our activities throughout the years included campaigns and initiatives to:

  • End the seasonal use of dolphins at Canada’s Wonderland in Ontario.
  • Prevent the acquisition and display of beluga whales at the Montreal Biodome.
  • End the keeping dolphins at the West Edmonton Mall in Alberta.
  • Prevent the establishment of a dolphinarium at the Granby Zoo in Quebec.
  • Stop the capture and export of beluga whales from Canada for public display facilities abroad, including preparation of the first ever report regarding how Canada’s WTO obligations are consistent with banning whale exports.
  • Stop the Calgary Zoo from acquiring narwhals and polar bears from Nunavut.
  • Push for the passage of Ontario’s Bill 80 which banned the possession and display of orcas in captivity in the province.
  • Push for passage of federal Bill S-203, An act to amend the Criminal Code and other acts (ending the captivity of whales and dolphins) to ban most whale and dolphin captivity in Canada, including addressing the Senate of Canada.

Zoocheck also engaged in decades of ongoing campaign activities focused on whales and dolphins at the Vancouver Aquarium (in association with local organization No Whales in Captivity) and at Marineland in Ontario (often in association with local group Niagara Action for Animals). Those activities included, but were not limited to: multiple investigations, numerous reports and briefs, lobbying of local, provincial and federal authorities, submission of multiple official complaints, appearances at many committee and other governmental meetings, production of a report on the research and educational claims of both facilities, participation as intervenors in a legal action between the Vancouver Aquarium and the Vancouver Park Board,  hosting an international dolphin advocates conference in Niagara Falls, and more.


  • Do not visit aquariums and marine parks that keep captive whales, dolphins and porpoises and let them know why you will not patronize their businesses.
  • Do not support swim-with-the dolphin businesses in tourist, holiday destinations. They are nearly always abusive and cruel.
  • Inform your family, friends and co-workers about the reality of life for whales, dolphins and porpoises in 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 that keep whales, dolphins and porpoises. Inform your child’s school and your local school board about why you believe these businesses are not appropriate for school visits.
  • Urge elected officials to pass laws to protect whales, dolphins and porpoises from exploitation and abuse in captivity.


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.