'Free Willy' bill bans dolphin and whale captivity in Canada

  • 'Free Willy' bill bans dolphin and whale captivity in Canada

'Free Willy' bill bans dolphin and whale captivity in Canada

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Canada's parliament today approved the so-called "Free Willy" bill that bans the capture or breeding of cetaceans such as whales and dolphins. But aquariums - Canada now has two facilities that keep dolphins and whales in captivity - may have seen the writing on the wall long before the bill began its journey through the nation's legislative gauntlet in 2015.

In a huge win for animal rights activists, Canada overwhelmingly passed a bill Monday making it illegal to hold dolphins, orcas and other whales in captivity.

Offenders can be fined up to $200,000.

Canada has banned venues such as aquariums and theme parks from keeping whales, dolphins, and porpoises in captivity for entertainment.

"Whales and dolphins don't belong in tanks, and the inherent suffering these highly social and intelligent animals endure in intensive confinement can no longer be tolerated", Rebecca Aldworth, Executive Director of Humane Society International/Canada, said in a release from the organization. There are exemptions for cetaceans now in captivity, as well as for rescue and rehabilitation efforts.

Beluga whales are remarkably social animals, using a massive range of clicks, whistles and clangs to communicate with their kind.

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.

Facilities that already have marine animals, however, will be allowed to keep them under the bill's grandfather clause.

'This is such an important law because it bans breeding, making sure the whales and dolphins now kept in tiny tanks in Canada are the last generation to suffer, ' Melissa Matlow, campaign director for World Animal Protection Canada, said in a statement.

However, the bill contains exceptions if the animals are being rehabilitated following an injury or state of distress.

"Many scientists testified to why it was critical that we stop keeping cetaceans in captivity".