The Vancouver Aquarium has agreed to drop its lawsuit against the city over the contentious ban on cetaceans in captivity, as part of its new 35-year lease.
The agreement, which replaces the current lease that’s set to expire in 2029, sets out that the Vancouver Aquarium will no longer display whales and dolphins, according to parent company Ocean Wise.
“We appreciate the park board’s cooperation and are thrilled that the Vancouver Aquarium is staying in Stanley Park, which has been its home since 1956,” CEO Lasse Gustavsson said in a news release Tuesday.
Last May, Ocean Wise announced it was suing the city, claiming it lost millions of dollars in revenue specifically through the design of and consultation on a new exhibit that relied on five belugas being brought in. That lawsuit will be discontinued.
The Vancouver debate on whether to ban cetaceans from the aquarium began in earnest in 2017, after beluga whales Qila and Aurora died a few months apart in 2016.
The Vancouver Park Board amended a bylaw that would ban the marine life from being held in captivity.
Two harbour porpoises and a false killer whale have also died at the aquarium since then, leaving a Pacific white-sided dolphin named Helen as the last remaining cetacean in its care.
Shortly after the bylaw was changed, the aquarium applied for judicial review of the amendment, arguing that the park board had no authority to do so. In February 2018, a B.C. Supreme Court judge agreed, citing a 1999 contract between the two sides that says the board will not interfere with the day-to-day administration of the aquarium.
The park board appealed on the basis that the court’s decision poses “a real and substantial challenge” to its legal power and authority, although the aquarium had announced it would no longer display cetaceans in captivity ahead of its $100-million expansion in Stanley Park. The new trial, which will be put back to the Supreme Court, has not yet begun.
Black Press Media has reached out to the park board for clarification.