Aquafacts / Whales In Aquariums

About AquaFacts

AquaFacts contain information on the Aquarium animals or other Aquarium-related topics. We’ve compiled the most popular questions about the whales in the Aquarium. Please email our librarian for other inquiries.

Why have whales in aquariums?

Seeing whales in aquariums has helped change public perception and increased support for conserving wild populations. There is no real substitute for seeing animals first-hand to generate a feeling of interest and connection. For most people, the Vancouver Aquarium and other aquariums are the only place they can see live whales. Education about conservation is vital to the survival of whales in the wild. If all the people that view whales in aquariums went whale watching, this would have a huge impact on various wild whale populations around the world.

What is the status of whales at Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre?

After considerable public dialogue, the Vancouver Aquarium and its landlord, the Vancouver Parks Board, agreed that the Aquarium will not capture, nor bring any whales captured after September 1996, into the Aquarium. The Aquarium can exchange its whales for others captured before that date, or for whales born in captivity, as required to maintain excellence in animal management.

Can breeding programs save endangered species in the wild?

Breeding in captive or semi-captive settings has been identified by international conservation organizations, such as the World Wildlife Fund and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, as perhaps the only hope for a number of critically endangered dolphins and porpoises. Animal care skills acquired in aquariums with non-endangered species are critical to the success of this program.

How do you transfer this knowledge to marine mammals in the wild?

Knowledge gained by caring for whales in aquariums is used to assist stranded animals and wild populations. We have been able to use ultrasound on pregnant belugas to learn more about and follow their reproductive patterns. We have also studied the respiration of whales and learned their normal respiration rates. Normal blood values of healthy whales have been observed which could help in the care of sick and stranded animals. Milk content has been studied and artificial milk formulas have been developed which could help an orphaned calf. Nutritional studies have also been conducted and diets have been developed to maintain healthy animals. From studying whales in aquariums, transport methods have been established which allows for the movement of sick and stranded whales to rehabilitation centres for care and then for release. Research in captive situations is allowing the development of tracking devices that will aid in the study of the movement of whales in the wild. In 2002, much of this research aided in the return of A73 (Springer), a "lost" killer whale calf, to her birth pod with the northern residents. Springer successfully reintegrated with her pod, and in 2013 she had her first calf; a proof point that we have been successful.

What is the status of whales at Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre?

After considerable public dialogue, the Vancouver Aquarium and its landlord, the Vancouver Parks Board, agreed that the Aquarium will not capture, nor bring any whales captured after September 1996, into the Aquarium. The Aquarium can exchange its whales for others captured before that date, or for whales born in captivity, as required to maintain excellence in animal management.