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Stop New Captive Display of
Narwhal and Belugas

- Sample Letter -

Calgary Zoo
1300 Zoo Road NE
Calgary, Alberta
T2E 7V6

Attention: Alex Graham, President & CEO

Dear Mr. Graham:

We were recently advised that the Calgary Zoo may be considering an arctic display and that the plans for that display include pools for narwhal and beluga whales.

The practice of keeping whales and dolphins (cetaceans) in captivity has been a matter of significant public concern and controversy in recent years. Albertans in particular have become very aware of the concerns surrounding captive cetaceans because of the enormous controversy generated by the keeping of dolphins at the West Edmonton Mall.

As I am sure you are aware, it is not possible to recreate the ocean habitat of these highly complex, wide-ranging animals, nor provide them with an environment that satisfies all of their biological and behavioural needs. In the wild, these animals range over expansive areas of ocean and establish very complex, often lifelong, social bonds and groupings. We believe they are among the poorest candidates for captivity.

You may be interested to know that Zoocheck Canada commissioned a professional public opinion survey company to assess the perceptions of Canadians regarding the capture, import and display of whales and dolphins in Canada. The first phase of that survey was conducted in British Columbia and revealed among other things that:

  • 71.1% of respondents polled to date feel that the physical and behavioural needs of whales and dolphins cannot be met in captivity;

  • 68% feel it is not appropriate to keep whales and dolphins in captivity; and

  • 58.3% will support laws that will ban the commercial use of captive whales and dolphins in Canada.

    The Vancouver Aquarium put 6 narwhals on display in 1970 and all died within 3 months of capture. Some beluga whales survive for longer periods but they do so in conditions that bear no resemblance to what they would experience in nature.

    We, the undersigned, representing more than 10 million supporters worldwide, urge you to abandon any plans to bring whales or dolphins into the Calgary Zoo, and we do so for the following reasons:
    1. Confining cetaceans is contrary to their welfare;
    2. The keeping of narwhal and beluga whales in captivity has no legitimate conservation value;
    3. The display of whales in captivity has little, if any, legitimate educational value and may present a distorted view of these animals to the visiting public; and

    4. The polling clearly shows that the majority of Canadians are concerned about the welfare and conservation of wildlife, and are generally opposed to the keeping of whales in captivity.

    Thank you for considering the points we have raised. We look forward to your quick response.

    Your name

    Lobbying For A Marine Mammal Import

    Continuing the shameful tradition of marine mammal deaths in captivity, a four year-old orca and two beluga whales died in the past year at Marineland, Niagara Falls.

    These incidents follow a string of earlier deaths at Marineland, including a number of bottlenose dolphin and orca deaths.

    Zoocheck Canada is campaigning to save other whales and dolphins from a similar fate by advocating a ban on the importation of marine mammals into Canada.

    Exposing Conditions

    Zoocheck has been active in documenting the conditions at Marineland for many years. Our 1998 report, Distorted Nature: Exposing the Myth of Marineland, reflects the observations of 13 experts, including veterinarians, animal scientists, wildlife rehabilitation specialists, and former members of the zoo and aquarium industries.

    The report noted serious problems with Marineland's record of animal welfare, as well as a failure to play a legitimate conservation role, negative educational value, and inadequate public health and safety measures.

       At that time, Zoocheck noted the total absence of any legislation governing captive marine mammals at either the federal or provincial levels in Canada.

    Stolen from the Wild

    In 1998, Marineland applied for a permit to capture beluga whales from Canadian waters. When this request was denied by the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), Marineland imported 12 wild-caught belugas from Russia.    Within three months of capture, one of the nine female belugas died. A second beluga died on August 17th of this year.

       In spite of these recent deaths, Marineland acquired six additional bottlenose dolphins on September 24th. Rallying for a Ban Zoocheck has repeatedly appealed to DFO and Environment Canada to prohibit both the capture of marine mammals in Canadian waters, and their import from, or export to, other countries.

    This position was echoed in a 1999 report to DFO by noted scientist and whale expert Dr Jon Lien, who called for a moratorium on future imports until DFO could consult with the Canadian public on this issue.

    Please write to DFO Minister Herb Dhaliwal and request that he impose an immediate moratorium on the capture, import and export of marine mammals by Canada, and further, that he establish regulations under the federal Fisheries Act to enshrine this ban in law. He can be reached at:
  • Department of Fisheries and Oceans

    Letters have the most impact. Additional contact information can be found on the Zoocheck website at

    - Help STOP Marineland!! -
    Brian McHattie - Zoocheck - Canada
    - August 31, 2000

    Dear CFN'ers,

    We need your help once again on Marineland of Canada in Niagara Falls and the lack of marine mammal  regulations in Canada in general. In the past six months, three more whales (2 belugas and an orca) have died at Marineland. The latest death was August 17 - the second death (both females) within the group of 12 belugas brought in by Marineland as part of the 1999 Russian White Sea beluga capture.

    This latest death ocurred as a scheduled petting pool session had just finished in front of hundreds of onlookers. This death follows on from an 11 year old girl being bit (requiring six stitches) by one of the belugas as part of Marineland's petting pool exhibit on August 5.

    Some of you may recall that the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) had commissioned a marine mammal scientist by the name of Dr. Jon Lien from Memorial University in Newfoundland to prepare a report examining the issue of marine mammals in captivity in Canada. A number of CFN'ers sent Dr. Lien their comments and Zoocheck met with him to provide our input.

    The report was provided to DFO on March 31, 1999 and there has been no action taken by the government since that time. Although we are not very happy with many of the recommendations and have supplied our comments to the Minister, Dr. Lien did recommend a moratorium on any further imports or exports of marine mammals into or out of Canada until DFO could get regulations in place. Had the Minister acted on this recommendation, the belugas would never have arrived at Marineland in the first place. We have also heard that Marineland is interested in importing up to 8 bottlenose dolphins from either Cuba or Russia in the near future, so it is very important the moratorium been put in place immediately.

    From our understanding of the Canadian political scene, we feel this should be doable. Canada has two other aquariums: the West Edmonton Mall (WEM) and the Vancouver Aquarium.  One of four bottlenose dolphins died at WEM recently and they have said they will not be acquiring any more dolphins. Many of you will know of the excellent job that Vancouver-area activists  are doing there, which probably means that the Aquarium will have a hard time acquiring any additional whales or dolphins (note that the DFO Minister's electoral riding is in Vancouver!). So, if we can get a moratorium in place, it will mostly affect Marineland. Even though they wouldn't say it, many people in the zoo/aquarium industry and government feel Marineland is an embarassment - what we're saying is that we should have a good chance at the moratorium if we can bring pressure to bear on the DFO Minister and after that we can go for tough overall captivity regulations. We are also working on arranging a meeting with DFO staff and the Minister hopefully within the next month.

    Therefore, we would like to ask you to please send a letter to:

    The Honourable Herb Dhaliwal
    Minister of Fisheries and Oceans
    200 Kent Street
    Ottawa, Ontario
    K1A 0E6
    Fax. (613) 943-1943

    As you know, faxes or letters in the mail have more impact than email.

    Please ask him to:
    1) Immediately place a moratorium on any further imports and exports of marine mammals in or out of Canada.
    2) Begin a public consultation process with the Canadian public on recommendations contained in Dr. Lien's report.
    3) Demand that any discussion of marine mammal regulations should include the issue of petting pools such as the one found at Friendship Cove, Marineland If you get a reply, please let us know!

    For more information, please contact Brian McHattie/Rob Laidlaw at Zoocheck Canada,
    3266 Yonge Street, Suite 1729,
    Toronto, Ontario M4N 3P6.
    Tel. (416) 285-1744; Fax. (416) 285-4670