The Vancouver Park Board will have another chance to argue it has the authority to ban cetaceans at the Vancouver Aquarium.
The B.C. Court of Appeal allowed the park board’s appeal Tuesday, reversing a lower court decision that said the board had no right to implement a bylaw that bans whales, dolphins and porpoises at the aquarium. The matter will be put back to the Supreme Court for a new trial.
The contentious battle over cetaceans in captivity between the park board and the aquarium’s operator, the Ocean Wise Conservation Association, started back in May 2017.
The park board had amended a bylaw to ban the animals from captivity, after two of the aquarium’s belugas, Qila and Aurora, had died suddenly the year before.
The aquarium applied for judicial review of the amendment, saying 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.
This was despite the aquarium recently announcing it would no longer display cetaceans in captivity ahead of its $100-million expansion in Stanley Park.
On Tuesday, Justice David Tysoe said the park board does not have to “fetter,” or restrain, its bylaw-making power, regardless of the decades-old agreement.
The aquarium, which has kept cetaceans since 1964, has one mammal remaining in its care: a Pacific white-sided dolphin named Helen, who is in her mid-30s and was rescued when she got tangled up in a fishing net in Japan.