Ottawa passes legislation that bans whale and dolphin captivity in Canada

Dolphin

The so-called "Free Willy" bill will ban the keeping of cetaceans, and the breeding, import or export of any whale, dolphin or porpoise.

The legislation, known as the "Free Willy" bill, is named after the 1993 movie under the same title.

"Nothing fantastic ever happens in a hurry", Humane Canada tweeted after the bill passed Monday.

The move aligns Canada with a growing list of countries that are endeavouring to ban cetaceans in captivity, said Rebecca Aldworth, executive director of the Canadian chapter of Humane Society International, which was among a coalition of marine scientists and organisations backing the bill.

It places restrictions on importing and exporting cetaceans, and bans making them perform for entertainment, with fines of up to $200,000 (£118,160) for breaches.

First brought before Canadian legislators back in 2015, the bill is expected to be signed into law once it gains "royal assent" or approval by the Canadian monarchy.

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Bill S-203l is an amendment to the Criminal Code among other acts, and is outlined on the Canadian parliament's website. It recently filed a lawsuit aiming to reverse a ban already in effect outlawing the captivity.

Tilikum, the world's most famous killer whale, died in 2017 after over 30 years in captivity.

While the short title of the bill includes whales and dolphins, the Act defines cetacean as "any member of the cetacean order, including a whale, dolphin or porpoise".

"We've known for some time now that cetaceans are a highly intelligent, social, deep-diving species whose needs simple can not be met in a tank", says Dr. Dubois, the BC SPCA's chief scientific officer. "Cetaceans require the ocean, they require the space, they require acoustic communication over long distances".

The bill forbids the capture, captive breeding, import and export of cetaceans, but does not require the release of those animals now already held in captivity in Canada.

The law will not be retroactive so cetaceans now held in captivity will not be released, and certain exceptions will apply in the case of animals requiring rehabilitation following injury or in the event that authorization is granted by the authorities.

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