In this Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015, photo, two Pacific white-sided dolphins dive into a pool at the Vancouver Aquarium in Vancouver, British Columbia. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press/AP Photo)

Canada to ban capture of dolphins, whales

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The federal government will ban the capture of marine mammals like whales, dolphins and porpoises, according to proposed legislation presented by the governing Liberals in the House of Commons.

The prohibition on fishing for cetaceans “with intent to take them into captivity” is part of the Liberals’ sweeping overhaul of fisheries legislation presented on Tuesday by Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard Dominic LeBlanc.

“The public acceptance of keeping these majestic creatures in captivity has changed and we think the law should also change to reflect that so we’re going to ban the taking of cetaceans,” Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc told reporters in Vancouver. “We think Canadians massively support that principle.”

Bill C-68, as the proposed legislation is known, allows the minister to make exemptions in circumstances “where the animal is injured, in distress or in need of care.”

Petty Officer First Class Rob Majore, right, a clearance diver with the Esquimalt-based Royal Canadian Navy Fleet Diving Unit, and Vancouver Aquarium senior marine mammal trainer Paula Lash, back left, participate in a diving demonstration as beluga whale Aurora swims at the aquarium in Vancouver, B.C., on Sunday January 18, 2015. The Vancouver Aquarium has announced that it will no longer display whales or dolphins. (Darryl Dyck/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

There are only two facilities in Canada – Marineland amusement park in Niagara Falls, Ontario, and the Vancouver Aquarium – that currently hold these mammals.

The Vancouver Aquarium welcomed the new legislation.

“In 1996, the Vancouver Aquarium became the first aquarium in the world to make a commitment to no longer collect wild cetaceans for display,” said a statement by the Vancouver Aquarium.

“We applaud Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and Minister LeBlanc, for supporting a practice that we pioneered more than 20 years ago.”

“As Canada’s only Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, we appreciate the ongoing support the Minister provides to protect stranded, sick or injured cetaceans that require rescue and care,” the statement added.

Opponents of the move have said such a ban on captive cetaceans would devastate attendance and threaten conservation efforts at theme parks where these animals are on display.

With files from John Paul Tasker of CBC News

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