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The Real Facts

Vancouver Aquarium

Vancouverites are proud of their Aquarium and its worldwide reputation as a leading marine science centre. Our members and supporters have asked us not to stand idle while our 1,500 staff and volunteers are attacked by a network of animal rights groups—many of whom do not live in Canada, let alone Vancouver—who continue to actively disperse misinformation about our commitments, our practices and our people. 

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1. Vancouver Aquarium Does Not
Capture Cetaceans From The Wild

In 1996, Vancouver Aquarium became the first aquarium in the world to make a commitment to no longer capture cetaceans from the wild for display. We now only accept and care for whales, dolphins and porpoises (cetaceans) that were born in an aquarium or were rescued and deemed non-releasable by an appropriate government authority. 

Aurora Daisy the harbour porpoise

2. Vancouver Aquarium Condemns
Practice Of Drive Fisheries

Vancouver Aquarium condemns the inhumane killing of dolphins in drive fisheries, as do all professionally accredited aquariums in North America. Our Pacific white-sided dolphin, Helen, is not from a drive fishery or from Taiji, we did not purchase her, and no additional animals were collected to replace her. Helen was rescued from entanglement in a fixed fishing net on the opposite coast of Japan thousands of kilometres from Taiji— she was in very poor condition but was rehabilitated and then deemed non-releasable by government authorities because of her injuries. She could not survive in the wild. Vancouver Aquarium offered her a safe and healthy long-term home.

Helen and Hana

3. Vancouver Aquarium Works With Accredited Facilities To Advance Science

In a rapidly changing world, marine science still contains many mysteries. Throughout our evolution, Vancouver Aquarium has worked with other professionally accredited aquariums to collaborate on research studies, share best practices and enhance staff expertise. Vancouver Aquarium is a proud member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums and Canada’s Accredited Zoos and Aquariums. The Aquarium currently has five belugas at other accredited facilities, which are required to have the highest standards of care for their marine mammals. 


4. Animal Life Cycles

Vancouver Aquarium is a well-respected marine science centre renowned for its exceptional marine mammal care. The animals receive the finest veterinary attention and benefit from state-of-the-art medical technologies developed for human health care. Cetaceans in professionally accredited facilities live as long as, or longer than, those in the wild. Staff, volunteers and visitors are deeply saddened by the passing of Aurora, who was approximately 29 years old, and her daughter Qila, who was 21 years old in November, 2016. The average age for a beluga in the Western Hudson Bay population, where Aurora was from, is 15 years.  

Porpoise Ultrasound

5. Vancouver Aquarium Is A Non-Profit Conservation Organization

Like all Canadian non-profit organizations, Vancouver Aquarium follows strict accounting regulations and undergoes an annual independent financial audit. Our 2015 Annual Report can be found here. Gallery admissions, fundraising events and community donations fund operations and animal care, as do programs such as our Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, Marine Mammal Research, Ocean Pollution Research, Ocean Wise™, Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup™ among others. Our staff and volunteers who dedicate their time to protecting the world’s oceans are deeply committed to the cause and encourage you to do your part by joining one of our direct action programs.

Marine Mammal Rescue

6. Our Team Is Deeply Committed
To Protecting Our Oceans

Before 1964, when the Vancouver Aquarium caught its first killer whale, B.C.’s fisheries managers had mounted a Browning .50 calibre machine gun at Seymour Narrows to cull the killer whales they believed were vicious predators. Today, killer whales are among the most adored species on earth due to the awareness we’ve raised and our participation in the longest study of killer whales in the world. Further, scientists have proven that up-close encounters with live animals change perceptions, increase understanding and inspire action.* Now, at a time when our oceans are in crisis from climate change, pollution, overfishing and acidification, we need more education and engagement than ever before.

* Briseno-Garzon, A. et al (2007). Adult Learning Experiences from an Aquarium visit: The Role of Social Interactions in Family Groups.
Skibins, J.C. & Powell, R.B. (2013). Conservation Caring: Measuring the Influence of Zoo Visitors’ Connection to Wildlife on Pro-Conservation Behaviors.

Killer whale Credit: Lance Barrett-Lennard

7. Taking Care Of Marine Mammals

Marine mammals at Vancouver Aquarium require a great deal of specialized care—this is especially true for for cetaceans as they are wholly aquatic. Training is a way for us to communicate with them and to build a trusting relationship. Training allows our professional team to convey simple messages that result in voluntary and cooperative body examinations, the taking of blood, body temperature, ultrasound, dental checks and eye exams. Our interactions are customized for each animal and vary for health care, exercise, socialization, science, learning, education and play. It also enables scientists to conduct vital research. The interactions happen regardless of public presence and are specifically, and most importantly, for the benefit of animal care. Our guests enjoy watching the interactions and marvel at the relationships the animals have with their expert caregivers. These interactions, or programs, offer important opportunities to engage our guests in ocean issues, particularly direct action programs in which our guests are encouraged to take part. 

Dolphin eye cup research

8. Our Animals Play A Vital Role

As well as helping to inspire understanding and action in our guests, the animals at Vancouver Aquarium continue to play an important role in research for ocean conservation. Some of the studies led by Vancouver Aquarium are conducted solely in the wild, though they use knowledge previously gained from animals at the Aquarium. Other studies are conducted only at Vancouver Aquarium. Many of them begin at the Aquarium, to establish baseline measurements and to broaden scientists’ understanding, and then continue in the wild.  Expertise gained working with on-site animals also means Vancouver Aquarium is the only rescue facility in Canada with the skills and expertise to conduct rescues in the wild, like reuniting orphaned killer whale Springer with her pod in 2002, rescuing stranded killer whale Sam in 2013, rescuing and rehabilitating harbour porpoise Levi in 2013, and conducting ongoing disentanglement efforts with sea lions on B.C.’s coast.


9. Research For The North

The Arctic is warming at a rate of almost twice the global average, and the sea ice that is a critical component of Arctic marine ecosystems is projected to disappear in the summer within a generation. For beluga whales, the changing environment means fewer food sources and greater threats, including increased shipping traffic, novel diseases and infection by parasites previously only found in more southern animal species. Vancouver Aquarium researchers and research associates from universities around North America are working together to find solutions to these new challenges. Belugas at the Vancouver Aquarium, including mother and daughter Aurora and Qila,  played an invaluable role in these studies. A list of peer-reviewed studies is listed on this page. It does not include research currently underway. 

arctic Belugas in the wild. Photo: John Ford

10. Providing A Home For Rescued Animals

Rescued cetaceans at Vancouver Aquarium have been deemed non-releasable by the appropriate government authorities, such as Fisheries and Oceans Canada. To be deemed non-releasable, stranded marine mammals have either sustained injuries that would put them at a great disadvantage in the wild (as with Helen, the Pacific white-sided dolphin), or they lack the life skills needed to survive on their own because they stranded at a very young age (the case with Daisy, the harbour porpoise). With every rescue, the team at Vancouver Aquarium’s Marine Mammal Rescue Centre works around the clock to rehabilitate the animal with the goal of reintroducing it to the wild. Each year, we succeed in rescuing, rehabilitating and releasing roughly 100 marine mammals back into their natural environment. Learn more about our Marine Mammal Rescue Centre


Jack and Daisy

Send A Letter 

Please share a letter of support to elected offiials by filling out your name and clicking send below. There are two groups of political representatives we’re wanting to reach: Park Board Commissioners and Senators. You may edit the letter and personalize it before sending. We appreciate your support!

Send a letter of support


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Need More Information?

Vancouver Aquarium is a non-profit society dedicated to the conservation of aquatic life.
You may learn more about our conservation efforts here or read our annual report.


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Did You Know?

Did You Know?

97 percent of all animals on Earth are invertebrates. 
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