Jun 12, 2015
Marineland's Response to Senator Moore's Private Bill
NIAGARA FALLS – ON – THURSDAY, June 11, 2015 - Senator Moore from Nova Scotia and Elizabeth May from British Columbia have introduced a bill today that has as its primary effect, throwing thousands of Ontarians out of work and diverting the one million visitors a year Marineland attracts to the Niagara Region to their own constituencies on either coast.
This Bill is a bicoastal job creation and tourism bill at the expense of Ontario, costing thousands of jobs in Niagara Falls and Niagara Region, and robbing the average people of Ontario from a fair opportunity to see our marine mammals.
When asked, Senator Moore said he was unaware of any economic impact his proposed bill will have on employment in Ontario of the people of Ontario.
This bill is all about promoting tourism for Senator Moore’s and Ms. May’s constituencies, and eliminating any competition.
Numerous independent studies and investigations have all concluded that the marine mammals at Marineland are healthy and well taken care of.
Dr. Noonan, an Academic Biologist with a specialty in Animal Behaviour and forty one years of experience conducting research in Animal Behaviour and Behavioural Neuroscience gave evidence at the Committee Hearings for Ontario’s Bill 80 as follows:
“The data from my research program at Marineland (of the Beluga Whales) indicate the following:
a. Behavioural indices of stress are very low
b. High reproductive rates suggest psychological well being
c. The belugas are able to express much of their natural behavioural repertoire
d. High incidence of playful behaviour suggests positive affect is predominant.”
The Ontario Government recognizes these facts and is putting in place appropriate scientific standards of care for all our marine mammals, so everyone in Ontario has a chance to see our unique marine mammals at Marineland.
It is clear that Senator Moore and Ms. May are focused on Tourism and know little about the whales they express so much concern about.
In fact, Senator Moore clearly knew little or nothing about Beluga Whales, publicly suggesting that there are only 880 Beluga Whales in Canada.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada reported in March of 2015 that “It is roughly estimated that between 72,000 and 144,000 belugas live in Canadian waters.” Over 50,000 of them live in Ontario. A far cry from 880.
Senator Moore and Ms. May were also quick to refer to Beluga Whales as “deep diving”, but failed to note the accepted scientific understanding of Belugas, “The majority of predicted habitat along the coast is consistent with Beluga behaviour in which they generally utilize shallow coastal waters, barely deep enough to cover their bodies.” (Ridgway and Harrison)(Goetz et al, 2012).
In fact, “River estuaries are very important summer habitat for Beluga. The whales rely on estuaries for a number of habitat functions, which may include foraging, moulting and nursery habitat, thermal advantage and protection from predators”.(The Beluga Management Plan, Ontario, Ministry of Natural Resources, 2013)
Most studies show a strong preference for Beluga Whales to remain on the surface or spend the vast majority of their time diving to depths of no more than 4 meters.
It is noted “The preference of this population for shallow water in summer is not dictated by an inability to dive to greater depths”.(Martin, Hall, Richard, 2000)
Beluga Whales only leave shallow estuaries when forced to by pack ice, returning immediately to shallow waters when the ice breaks up, and are able to dive to great depths, in part to avoid being eaten by their primary predator, Killer Whales.
Senator Moore and Ms. May shifted the focus of their press conference almost immediately to Marineland, and it is clear that the purpose of their Bill is to eliminate any opportunity for any Canadian (particularly Ontarians) to view or visit any Whale or Dolphin in Canada anywhere except in their ridings on the west or east coast.
The focus on Marineland is clear from the way they arranged for Mr. Demers to attend, whose catalogue of conspiracy theory and mass animal abuse allegations, have been unequivocally proven to be completely false after careful independent and thorough reviews by multiple separate teams of experts in marine mammals from a host of Government agencies. Mr. Demers appears to be motivated solely by revenge against Marineland over rejection of his proposal to Marineland that he star in a reality TV show featuring Marineland’s animals. He didn’t make a single allegation of abuse in twelve years until his reality TV show dream was crushed. Mr. Demers’ primary role at Marineland was feeding fish to marine mammals, under direct supervision, and his formal marine mammal qualifications are non-existent, as his education did not extend beyond graduating from high school. Relying on Mr. Demers with respect to marine mammal health and welfare is like relying solely on the opinion of a hospital orderly regarding the medical care of patients in a hospital, and deliberately disregarding specialist physicians and nurses.
Mr. Moore, and Ms. May, used their Press Conference to encourage tourism to their constituencies and to suggest that the best way to see any whale or dolphin is to do it from a boat.
While a visit to the East of West Coast is amazing, it is a visit that is well beyond the financial means of most average families in Ontario, and not the type of expenditure any family is generally prepared to make to view a whale or dolphin. Many families on the West or East coast decline to participate in very expensive whale watching trips in their own communities. Why should Ontarians be denied the opportunity to visit Marineland at a fraction of the cost?
It is ridiculous to suggest, as Ms. May and Mr. Moore have, that the average Ontarian should be forced to spend thousands of dollars to jet their whole families out to either coast to participate in a high end expensive whale watching event just so their children can see a dolphin or Beluga Whale.
As we all know, there are no guarantees you will see anything whale watching from a boat and may only learn what it is like to be seasick.
Furthermore, whale watching is far more stressful for any whale than visiting them at Marineland. As Dr. Noonan noted: “Behavioural indices of stress are very low” among Beluga Whales at Marineland. To the contrary, it has been noted that:
“The cumulative effect of changing behaviours, displacement, or the chronic stress induced by exposure to whale watching activity may translate into decline in health and vital rates.” Among whales being watched.
That is why Marineland continues to welcome almost a million visitors a year to view marine mammals that cannot be viewed anywhere else except at enormous expense, if they can be viewed at all.
Since Marineland opened over fifty years ago, we have hosted, educated and entertained literally millions of young people and families.
We have heard from many marine biologists, veterinarians, conservationists and oceanographers that it was their childhood experience at Marineland that inspired them to learn more about the wonders of the ocean and its amazing aquatic life. Ontario’s children who come to visit and learn about animals they might never know existed will grow up to the champions of the wild cousins of the animals you find at places like Marineland.
Marineland notes that the Bill forces immediate closure of all marine mammal facilities, which demonstrates the lack of care or thought for marine mammals that went into this Bill.
All of the Killer Whale, dolphins and majority of Beluga Whales were, long ago, classified as wild capture, and as a consequence cannot be legally relocated anywhere. This Bill mandates their execution by legislation. No sea pens exist that can house Beluga Whales as all Arctic bays are choked with ice for half the year.
Even the most prominent activist in the United States, Naomi Rose, on behalf of the Humane Society of the United States, recognizes these issues and has publicly stated:
“We are proposing a phasing out of orca exhibition, taking as long as three decades, giving Oceanaria sufficient time to repurpose their orca enclosures. We believe this is eminently reasonable and will minimize the financial impacts of ending this practice.”
Naomi Rose, September 2011
This Bill is an opportunistic effort to shut Marineland to unfairly attempt to benefit one group of Canadians at the expense of another.
Marineland notes that this is a private senator Bill and Marineland trusts that the Government will act responsibly in the interests of all Canadians and reject this ill-informed, unscientific, misguided, and transparent effort to enrich Mr. Moore’s and Ms. May’s own ridings at the expense of all Ontarians.