Canada’s Parliament has passed legislation banning whales, dolphins and porpoises from being bred or held in captivity — a move that was hailed by animal rights activists.
Violations are punishable by fines of up to 200,000 Canadian dollars (about $150,000).
The bill contains some exceptions: Marine mammals already held will be allowed to remain in captivity. And the animals can be kept during rehabilitation from injury or for the purposes of licensed scientific research.
Animal rights activists, who have long argued that containing marine mammals and training them to entertain amounts to cruelty, celebrated the news, tweeting under the hashtags #EmptyTheTanks and #FreeWilly.
Former Sen. Wilfred Moore of Nova Scotia, who in 2015 as a senator introduced the measure, known as the Ending the Captivity of Whales and Dolphins Act, said in a statement from Humane Society International/Canada that phasing out the animals’ captivity was a “moral obligation.”
The CBC reports that the measure “notably impacts Marineland, the Niagara Falls [Ontario] amusement park and zoo that is considered the last Canadian park committed to keeping cetaceans in captivity.”
Marineland has some 61 cetaceans, including “55 beluga whales, five bottlenose dolphins and one orca,” according to the CBC, citing data from Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
The park had initially opposed the ban, saying it would hurt attendance as well as conservation efforts. But in a statement Monday, Marineland said that its operations have been evolving since its founding in the 1960s and that it would comply with the legislation.