A recent media report about animals in distress due to poor water quality at one of Niagara Falls’ star attractions has put renewed pressure on Marineland. For the last several years, numerous environmental and animal rights advocates and groups have been demanding the park’s closure, and they now have a powerful political voice in their corner, the leader of the Ontario Green Party.
“The practice of keeping whales and dolphins in captivity is unethical and cruel. It must end,” said Guelph MPP Mike Schreiner in a statement on Wednesday.
“Whales and dolphins are highly intelligent and social creatures that should not be living in such deplorable conditions,” Schreiner added. “Ontario Greens will continue to call for the immediate banning of keeping whales and dolphins in captivity and will continue strongly standing up for the protection of animal welfare. It’s the right thing to do.”
The renewed negative attention on Marineland comes after the Canadian Press got access to the results of a months-long inspection of the park by Animal Welfare Services that resulted in two issues being ordered on May 10 to repair “all broken, inoperable, and/or malfunctioning measuring devices, gauges, sensors and panels on the marine mammal life support systems” after several water sample testing results were found to be “outside of minimum parameters required.”
Marineland filed an appeal of the order back on May 17 claiming that animal deaths in the park, including an unknown number of whale deaths, were unrelated to water quality. They also argued that the inspectors lacked the expertise to evaluate marine mammals, and did not examine the animals during the inspections. Marineland eventually withdrew their appeal, and the review board dismissed the case on June 8.
For the last decade, Marineland had come under near constant assault from animal rights activists, former employees-turned whistleblowers, and even government agencies like the Ontario Ministry of the Environment. This isn’t even the first time that Marineland’s been investigate for low water quality. In 2013, the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA) cited poor water quality as one of seven issues that the agency ordered the park to fix.
Marineland has repeatedly rejected allegations of animal cruelty and charges that they do not properly take care of the animals in their park, which includes land animals like bears and deer, as well as marine mammals like dolphins, Beluga Whales, and the iconic Orca, or Killer Whales.
Adding further fuel to the close Marineland movement this week was a social media post from former park employee-turned-whistleblower Phil Demers. The 35-second video shows Kiska, Marineland’s last orca whale, listless and passive in a concrete tank at the park. Demers also reported that she “often calls out for other orcas”, noting that Kiska has been living in isolation for a decade now.
In 2015, the Ontario Legislature passed the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Amendment Act, which banned the the possession or breeding of orcas in Ontario, but allowed Marineland to keep the animals they already have. A Change.org petition demanding that Marineland and Seaworld release all their animals has nearly 22,000 signatures.