Two outgoing members of Vancouver's park board will use Monday's final meeting to push for a vote on the wording of a bylaw that would force the aquarium in Stanley Park to halt the breeding of beluga whales, dolphins and harbour porpoises.
Sarah Blyth and Constance Barnes, two of five current Vision commissioners on the seven-member board, have advocated for an end to the aquarium's cetacean captivity. Ms. Blyth, in an interview, said she wants the compromise measure – a breeding ban agreed to by the board last summer – in place before a new board takes over next month.
"We – Constance and I – feel that there has been sufficient consultation on this bylaw. We think this is what the people want. We were very thoughtful. This isn't a personal thing," she said.
This month's civic election saw Vision take a significant hit on the parks board. The composition of the board will shift from five Vision and two NPA members, to four NPA, two Green and just one member from Vision. The NPA does not support the breeding ban. The Greens have said the issue of cetacean captivity should be put to a city-wide plebiscite.
But despite Vision's current control of the board, it remains to be seen whether Ms. Blyth and Ms. Barnes can rally enough support Monday. The board's outgoing chair, Vision's Aaron Jasper, has said he would not support ramming the matter through, since a new board is set to take over.
Other Vision members of the board did not return messages seeking comment.
John Coupar, an NPA park-board commissioner who was re-elected, has reiterated that the NPA will not support the breeding ban.
A staff report on the issue, released last week, recommends further public consultation on the issue of captivity.
Ms. Blyth said that's not necessary.
"Scientists, Jane Goodall, the humane society, the SPCA – we've heard from folks all over the world. We came to that decision, to move in that direction, with a lot of public consultation – probably the most we've ever gotten on an issue. Those decisions have already been made; this is simply the wording of the bylaw," she said.
The latest round in Vancouver's decades-long aquarium debate began in April, when Ms. Blyth and Ms. Barnes said keeping the cetaceans in captivity was unacceptable.
The commissioners said they were moved by the documentary Blackfish, which examined the captivity of killer whales at SeaWorld facilities in the United States.
Mayor Gregor Robertson, days after the commissioners made their announcement, said he, too, believed the aquarium should not keep cetaceans.
However, the mayor added that the decision ultimately fell under the park board's jurisdiction.
The board, which was established in 1890 and is the only elected body of its kind in Canada, has authority over the aquarium because of the facility's Stanley Park location.
The board voted for the breeding ban on July 31, opting not to phase out the captivity of cetaceans altogether.
But John Nightingale, the aquarium's president, took no solace in being able to keep the current cetaceans.
He called the breeding ban "unnatural."
The aquarium filed a lawsuit against the board in August.
The staff report lays out the wording of the ban and the framework for an aquarium oversight committee.
It says "no person shall breed, or permit, suffer or allow the breeding of cetaceans" unless that species is threatened.
It also says the aquarium oversight committee would consist of a maximum of five animal-welfare experts.
The experts would deliver a biannual report to the park board, focusing on the status and well-being of the cetaceans being held in captivity.
The report says there has been considerable dialogue since the park board voted in favour of the ban and staff, as a result, recommend further consultation with the public.