‘Free Willy’ Bill banning captivity of whales and dolphins clears Senate

Humane Society International/Canada, Coastal First Nations, and Canadians across the country celebrate halfway mark in #EmptyTheTanks Canada campaign

Humane Society International

OTTAWA – Canada has reached the halfway mark in prohibiting the captivity of whales and dolphins in Canada with the majority of Senators voting in support of Bill S-203, Ending the Captivity of Whales and Dolphins Act. The proposed legislation would ban the captivity of whales and dolphins for entertainment purposes, associated captive breeding programs, and the trade of these creatures.

“Bill S-203 makes it clear that we have a moral obligation to phase out the capture and retention of cetaceans for profit and entertainment. This bill would have Canada join other countries that have already banned cetacean captivity,” said bill sponsor Senator Murray Sinclair in his speech to Senate. “Societal attitudes are changing with respect to our relationship and responsibility to animals. Canadians are calling upon us to do better.”

“The world’s top marine scientists agree that whales, dolphins and porpoises – together known as cetaceans – lead lives of severe deprivation, depression and illness when in captivity,” said Julie MacInnes, wildlife campaign manager for HSI/Canada. “We are grateful for Senator Wilfred Moore and Senator Murray Sinclair’s leadership in achieving today’s milestone. It is unethical to subject these intelligent, sensitive and social creatures to such deprivation, all for the purpose of public entertainment. This bill is an important step towards giving whales and dolphins the respect and dignity that they so deserve.”

Marine scientist Hal Whitehead added: “A highly-social pod of wild dolphins can travel up to 100 kilometers a day in the open ocean, and dive several hundred meters. The living conditions for captive marine mammals cannot compare to their natural ocean environments in size, nor in quality. We ask that the federal government support Bill S-203 so that our laws can align with the Canadian peoples’ values, and end this cruel practice.”

“As stewards of much of Canada’s pacific coast, Coastal First Nations have a special and important relationship with cetaceans and a duty to protect them,” said Paul Kariya, Senior Policy Advisor with Coastal First Nations. “Our experience in developing marine use plans, using ecosystem-based management, and building successful whale-watching and ecotourism businesses provides a compelling alternative vision for more respectful ways of appreciating and living with some of the most magnificent wild animals on the planet.”


  • HSI/Canada has campaigned to end the captivity of cetaceans for years. Globally, HSI has been at the forefront of a powerful movement to protect cetaceans and end their cruel captivity through education, outreach, and legislative efforts.
  • Leading marine scientists agree that whales and dolphins suffer great psychological and physical harms in captivity, including isolation, chronic health problems, abnormal behaviour, high infant mortality and extreme boredom.
  • Currently, only two facilities in the country house cetaceans – the Vancouver Aquarium, and Marineland in Niagara Falls. However, the Vancouver Aquarium, will no longer keep cetaceans in captivity, due to public opinion and outrage over the practice.
  • Over three quarters of Canadians who have an opinion on cetaceans in captivity, disagree with the practice.

Media Contact: Christopher Paré – O: 514 395-2914 x 206, c: 438 402-0643, cpare@hsi.org

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