In captivity, they are more like sardines than the kings and queens of the deep.
Whales, dolphins, porpoises and the like are sensitive, feeling mammals accustomed to travelling the world’s oceans with their friends and relations.
But in some place in Canada, captive cetaceans languish in small pools and grow despondent, solemn and sorrowful.
Senator Wilfred Moore — who has seen firsthand the joyful activity of wild whales breaching off the coast of his home province of Nova Scotia — wants to put an end to the exploitation of cetaceans in Canada.
Bill S-203 — the Ending the Captivity of Whales and Dolphins Act — would make it illegal to breed or keep captive cetaceans. Senator Moore’s bill would also make it illegal to seek or possess cetacean reproductive materials.
“There’s a large body of support,” Senator Moore said.
He counts director Gabriela Cowperthwaite among the bill’s proponents. Her Blackfish documentary, about a SeaWorld orca named Tilikum that has killed three people during its time in captivity, helped solidify Senator Moore’s conviction that Canada should join the growing number of countries banning captive cetaceans.
The Vancouver Aquarium and Marineland in Niagara Falls, Ont. are home to a number of cetaceans, but the Senator is quick to point out those facilities will be able to keep the creatures they already have and to care for injured cetaceans.
The mayors of Vancouver and Niagara Falls support the bill, Senator Moore added, along with a number of prominent marine biologists.
Life in captivity is miserable.
Seized with angst, some cetaceans grow listless and sink to the bottom of their pools while others bang their hands against their enclosures.
“They can’t move. They can’t roll like they’re built to do,” Senator Moore said. “They will do things to hurt themselves out of anger because of the way they’re being treated by their human captors.”
The bill has spawned petitions and its own hashtag — #freewillymoore — and Senator Moore hopes it will soon be able to go before the Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans for study.
“It’s just so bad,” Senator Moore said. “[We need to] let them be who they are in their own natural element.”
Click here to read Senator Moore’s speech in the Senate chamber.