House of Commons Hansard #41 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was provinces.


CetaceansPrivate Members' Business

April 2nd, 2001 / 11 a.m.


Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC


That, in the opinion of this House, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans should decree an immediate moratorium on the live capture and trade of cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises).

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in the House to bring forward the motion for debate because it is a very topical issue and something that I think is of great interest to Canadians. The motion states:

That, in the opinion of this House, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans should decree an immediate moratorium on the live capture and trade of cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises).

I will begin my remarks by explaining why I have brought the motion forward.

The reality is that Canada lacks any regulation. In fact Canada has chosen not to regulate the import, export and interprovincial trade in marine mammals or to regulate their breeding in captivity. This is in very sharp contrast to other countries, especially the U.K., which has very tough legislation regulating marine mammals in captivity.

The purpose of my motion is to engage in a very important public discussion among Canadians about the ethics, the problems and the issues with the trade and captivity of marine mammals.

I believe that Canadians care deeply about marine mammals and what happens to them. We need as public legislators to start making decisions about how to protect the species.

The current situation in Canada is actually something that is quite sad. Going back to 1992, we have a good initiative in that the then minister of DFO, Mr. Crosbie, announced that he would no longer consider any application for the live capture of beluga whales from Canada to other countries. However this only covered belugas. It did not deal with interprovincial trade within Canada. Unfortunately it has occurred in practice only, that is, it has not been followed up in any policy sense or in any legislative sense.

I think we have to ask the question: Why has the Department of Fisheries and Oceans deemed it inappropriate to export belugas to other countries but has left it quite open that other marine mammals are unprotected within our borders?

If the motion before us today were taken up by the government, which I hope it will be, who would be affected by this moratorium? Currently in Canada, we have three aquariums which feature captive whales and dolphins: the Vancouver Aquarium; the West Edmonton Mall; and Marineland of Canada in Niagara Falls.

The West Edmonton Mall personnel have indicated that they will phase out the dolphin show and not replace the dolphins upon their deaths.

The Vancouver Aquarium, as a result of many years of public lobbying and very strong public concern, has stated that it will no longer acquire whales and dolphins from the wild and will no longer keep killer whales. In fact, the last remaining orca whale, the Bjossa, is slated to go to Sea World in San Diego very shortly. However, the situation at the Vancouver Aquarium is that it still left open the possibility of securing marine mammals already captive at other facilities. The reason I brought forward this motion is that it would put a stop to that.

The other aquarium in Canada, Marineland, currently has 10 beluga whales, 7 bottlenose dolphins and 7 killer whales. It has a history of breeding animals and may be poised, unfortunately, to become an international source for the captive whale and dolphin industry unless it is regulated.

This is a very serious subject. There is a lot of ambiguity and confusion about what Canada's position is on the issue due to the lack of regulation and legislation.

The Vancouver parks board, which I visited last Monday night, March 26, was considering its own bylaw that would theoretically prohibit the importation of live captive whales and dolphins. Unfortunately, the bylaw was so ambiguous that a lot of concerned groups and individuals in Vancouver lobbied the parks board for a clear bylaw that would prohibit the live capture and importation or trading of whales through the Vancouver Aquarium.

When I spoke at the Vancouver park board it seemed to me that it would make much better sense to have a national policy and/or legislation that would clearly outline Canada's position and protect these magnificent animals from live capture and captivity in aquariums and trading.

In doing research on this issue, one of the things I found to be most disturbing was that not only does Canada have a lack of regulation and a lack of policy on this issue but we also have become a haven for what is called whale laundering. This is something that is very serious and is not known by many people.

Some countries, such as the United States, have much tougher legislation governing the capture of marine mammals for captivity. To avoid these rules, some U.S. facilities can capture animals in a third country, Russia for example, and then house those animals in facilities here in Canada. The practice has been that after a short period of time, maybe a year or so, they are then brought into the United States. This process has allowed U.S. marine facilities to bypass their own tough legislation and to avoid public scrutiny. They are using Canada and our facilities to do that.

There is no question that Marineland and the Vancouver Aquarium have served in this capacity in the past. In doing so, I believe that our Canadian facilities undermine marine mammal regulations in other countries and indeed internationally.

I will now spend a few minutes on the cost of government inaction. Canada's Marineland has been very active in the international whale and dolphin trade. Since May 1999, it has imported 12 beluga whales and six bottlenose dolphins from Russia. Two of the belugas have since died in captivity. The capturing of these animals happens in the most inhumane fashion imaginable.

On Friday, when I held a press conference on my motion, we showed a video that was taken in Russia on the capture of beluga whales. It showed the absolute inhumane conditions that are in complete violation of international rules for aviation, travel and transport as well as for the capture of whales.

The video was most graphic and disturbing. It showed the cruelty and abuse these animals suffer only to end up captive in a marine facility where they are put on public display. My fear is that if the minister does not act soon Canada will become known as a warehousing facility for marine mammals to other facilities around the world.

Government inaction is not only lamentable but it defies both logic and compassion. I know the minister has received thousands of letters asking him to act. I also know that during this past week about 100 e-mails, letters and faxes in support of the motion came through to the minister's office.

Last Tuesday I attended the Pacific headquarters of the DFO in Vancouver and delivered to the minister's office copies of all of the e-mails that I have received as well as a presentation from Zoocheck Canada of a very serious graphic representation of a whale inside a sardine can. We know what we see when we peel back a sardine can. We see sardines squished together, lined up one by one in those tiny cans. Imagine a poster of a sardine can and when it is rolled back from the corner what we see is a whale. That representation really symbolizes what this issue is about in terms of captivity.

Further to the governments inaction, one of the things that is really of very grave concern is that in 1998 the Department of Fisheries and Oceans commissioned Dr. Jon Lien, a respected marine mammal scientist from Memorial University in Newfoundland, to examine the practice of live capture and captive maintenance of marine mammals in Canada.

In that report from 1998, not only did Dr. Lien call for a ban on new live capture and imports, but he also called for a moratorium on the captive maintenance of marine mammals. The department and the minister have now had this report sitting on their desks for two years and have chosen not to act on the recommendation from Dr. Lien.

I have to ask the question today: why has this report not been acted on? Why has this issue been left not even on the back burner but just gathering dust on a shelf while we still have live capture, trading and captivity of whales and dolphins in our country and are now warehousing them for other groups around the world?

Animal protection groups such as Zoocheck Canada have made numerous attempts to meet with the minister and/or DFO staff in the past year, but those requests have been denied. Yet I was astounded to learn just a few days ago that the department is currently meeting with industry officials in secret and looking at developing supposed educational standards in regard to the captivity of whales and dolphins.

Again I have to ask why there is a double standard here. Why do we have a report that has not been acted upon when there is intense public interest in the issue? Why is it that the department is meeting behind closed doors when there should be open public disclosure and debate about the very important ethical, educational and scientific issues involved in the captivity of these marine mammals?

I want to make it clear that the motion today is not asking that Canada take a leadership role on the issue, because a number of countries around the world have already imposed bans on the import of whales and dolphins, including Argentina, Cyprus, Hungary, India, Israel and Chile. What we are asking in the motion is that Canada play its role, that it display progressive and positive decision making to protect these magnificent animals from further abuse and from further live capture and captivity.

I believe that the quality of life for marine mammals in captivity is inhumane. There is very strong evidence for this. Far from being a far ranging, deep diving, constantly moving creature, a captive whale becomes essentially a sedentary animal, spending most of its time at the surface swimming in circles in a small concrete tank. In some cases, such as Marineland of Canada, this means keeping an adult orca in a 25 foot diameter tank for long periods of time so that it has nothing to do but float motionless at the surface. Is this educational? Is this what we consider humane treatment?

Orcas, dolphins and beluga whales use echolocation or sonar ability to navigate at night and to find food. In a concrete tank which never changes and has no textural variety to it, they almost never use this critical behaviour.

Whales and dolphins are among the most socially complex creatures on earth. They live in close knit groups that often consist of multiple generations of the same family. The life expectancy of marine mammals in captivity is greatly reduced. In the wild, orcas can live into their 80s, while in captivity few have lived into their 30s.

Clearly there is an ethical issue about whether or not these animals are being kept in captivity for so-called education or simply for entertainment. It is clear that we need to do something. It is clear that we need to act upon the recommendations in Dr. Lien's report.

I want to thank many people and organizations such as Brian McHattie from Zoocheck Canada, Shelagh Macdonald from the Canadian Federation of Human Societies, Annelise Sorg from the Coalition for No Whales in Captivity in Vancouver, and John Mate from Whale Friends. They have taken up this issue with passion, have not let it go and have demanded that the government determine why this report from two years ago has not been acted on.

I look forward to the responses from other parties today in the House. I hope there will be a positive response. If we genuinely believe there should be protection for these magnificent animals, then that report must be acted on by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

CetaceansPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased on behalf of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, the member for Labrador, to rise in the House today to respond to the motion put forward by the member for Vancouver East.

First I would like to thank the member for Vancouver East for her continuing concern and interest in the live capture and trade of whales and dolphins. I think it is very important that we outline the facts as they exist and the work the government and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans have been doing in this area.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada takes the well-being of aquatic animals, including those in aquariums, very seriously. For decades all applications for live capture have been carefully scrutinized to ensure that the well-being of these creatures is always the first priority. Applications are examined to determine the adequacy of each aquarium's facilities, the quality of its staff and veterinary support and a range of other considerations. If there is any doubt in these areas, the application is turned down.

While keeping whales and dolphins in aquariums is generally seen as both safe for these creatures and a useful educational tool, DFO is well aware of the concerns expressed by Canadians about keeping whales in captivity. It is true that the long term effects of captivity on whales and dolphins are largely unknown. For these reasons, in 1992 Canada placed a moratorium on the live capture of whales and dolphins for export. The moratorium is still in effect. There has not been a live capture in Canadian waters since that time. I want to emphasize that: there has not been a live capture in Canadian waters since that time. In fact, since 1992 there has been only one application for the live capture of a whale for a Canadian aquarium. That application was rejected.

To develop long term policies for live capture, however, DFO is working to improve its knowledge on the effects of captivity on whales and dolphins and to clarify the various jurisdictions involved. Allow me to present the details of the review.

An independent scientist commissioned by the department conducted a comprehensive review to provide recommendations about the relevance of live captures to DFO's role in marine mammal management. To do this, he travelled across Canada and consulted a wide range of interested groups. While the review acknowledged the benefits of live capture and gave qualified support for whales in aquariums, it also pointed out specific deficiencies and provided a series of recommendations on how to improve marine mammal management in three key areas: one, whales in captivity; two, care and maintenance standards; and three, international trade.

The first group of recommendations, however, whales in captivity, is one where the federal government can do little. Under the constitution, the holding of animals in captivity falls under the responsibility of the provinces. DFO has legal authority only over the live capture of whales from wild stocks in Canadian waters and their release back into the wild.

In the meantime, however, in keeping with the spirit of the review the Department of Fisheries and Oceans is looking at other ways to address the recommendations outlined in areas where the department can in fact make a difference.

The second group of recommendations, care and maintenance standards, is one in which the Department of Fisheries and Oceans is looking to make progress. Once again, while care and maintenance of these creatures is a provincial responsibility, DFO is examining opportunities within the federal jurisdiction to work closely with organizations such as the Canadian Council on Animal Care to establish voluntary standards for aquariums as well as a process for their independent verification.

Indeed, preliminary discussions are confirming that Canadian aquariums and their association, the Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums, are generally supportive of a set of formalized care and maintenance standards as well as an independent verification process.

For the third area of interest, international trade, Canadian legislation is already in place to deal with the protection and trade of species, particularly endangered stocks. The 1996 Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act addresses any threats to wildlife that may result from trade. In effect, the act implements the United Nations Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna, or CITES as it is generally known. This is an international treaty designed to protect various species, including a number of whales and dolphins. Canada is a party to this convention, along with 151 other nations.

Under the convention any trade in rare or endangered species is not permitted for commercial purposes. Species that are not rare or endangered but that could become so if trade is not regulated, such as beluga whales, which the member mentioned, are also covered by this convention. Under the regulations, trade in these species is subject to an export permit from the country of export.

Once again, I should reiterate that there is presently a moratorium in Canada on live capture of whales and dolphins for export. At this time, banning imports of dolphins and non-endangered whales such as the beluga whale, as put forward in the member's motion, would be inconsistent with the convention and perhaps also with obligations to which Canada is subject under other international trade agreements.

Having said that, let me point out that DFO is currently reviewing the question of live capture and is considering appropriate alternatives.

In conclusion, I would like to reiterate that Fisheries and Oceans Canada takes the well-being of all aquatic creatures very seriously. The stringent application process that has long governed the live capture of whales and dolphins and the moratorium that has been in place since 1992 provide effective protection for wild animals in Canada. These measures, along with the comprehensive review currently being examined by DFO, demonstrate the importance the department places on this subject.

Until concrete recommendations are developed there is no pressing reason to change the mechanisms in place with regard to live capture. As I mentioned a moment ago, Canada fully supports CITES and has domestic regulations that fully implement our trade obligations under this convention. Clearly it would not be appropriate to adopt a proposal that is inconsistent with our international obligations. For this reason, we are unable to accept the member's motion to decree an immediate moratorium on the live capture and trade of whales and dolphins at this time.

CetaceansPrivate Members' Business

11:25 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Reed Elley Canadian Alliance Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker. It is indeed a pleasure for me to rise in the House today to speak to Motion No. 75. I thank our hon. colleague from the New Democratic Party for bringing this to the attention of the House and giving us an opportunity to debate the issue.

The motion states:

That, in the opinion of this House, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans should decree an immediate moratorium on the live-capture and trade of cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises).

I freely confess that I am not an expert in zoology, biology or any other animal husbandry field, but like many others in this country I do have an opinion on this issue and I think it is reflective of how many Canadians feel. Let us not forget that an issue like this has many aspects to it. These aspects contain safety, humanitarian, educational research and emotional components.

Today's motion is not votable but I believe that we have the opportunity to further the debate in a very calm and rational manner. Issues such as these often become strictly an emotional one rather than looking at a situation from several different points of view.

Over my years I was privileged to visit many of the fine zoos, wildlife preserves and the like which we have in Canada. Coming from a west coast riding, perhaps I am more aware of whales, dolphins and porpoises and their natural environment than many of my colleagues from inland provinces.

Just last year my family and I had an opportunity to go on a whale watching excursion off the Victoria harbour. My friend runs a company that does this. He is very respectful of the natural habitat of whales. It was an incredible experience to see these animals in their environment. A small minority of people are able to do that. Most of the people who were on the tour that day were tourists from Japan and Germany.

As we consider this motion calling for an immediate moratorium on the live capture and trade of cetaceans, the term moratorium can mean several different things. My understanding of the term could be threefold. First, it could be a legally authorized period of delay in the performance of a legal obligation. Second, could mean a waiting period set by an authority. Third, it could be a suspension of activity altogether. While I believe I understand the member's motion to mean the third of these possible definitions, perhaps we should more closely frame the debate in the future.

With regard to the many different ways to view this debate, I would like to briefly comment on several different aspects.

With regard to safety concerns, I believe most people would agree that any animals held outside their regular environment should be held in a very safe and humane manner. By this I am specifically referring to the safety of the animal. The safety of the animal also runs in tandem with humanitarian concerns. I recognize that there will be a broad range of thought specifically on this issue. There will be those who feel that the only humanitarian place for an animal is in its natural environment. There are others who feel that it is humanitarian to have captured animals in an environment that closely resembles their natural habitat.

I have seen some of the video clips that the hon. member mentioned depicting the live capture of cetaceans. What I saw did raise some personal concerns. I was concerned over the humanitarian treatment of these animals during capture. I fully realize these clips may not accurately depict everything that goes on at the time in other places, however the treatment I saw was certainly not humanitarian.

If whales are going to be captured for research, observation and the like, then I would personally rather see stricter guidelines that clearly state how animals must be treated. If Canadian aquariums are found purchasing from these organizations that practise inhumane capture and flaunt the international laws governing such, then these aquariums and societies ought to be punished by law and prohibited from doing so.

One of the factors that is often overlooked is the one of education. It is one thing to read a book, watch a video or listen to an expert. I believe it is also important to have a tactile experience wherever possible. If we want to learn more and teach our younger generation about these amazing creatures, we still need to have the ability to show our children what they look like and how they behave.

As I mentioned earlier, yes, there are boat tours available. However quite frankly most of those activities are outside of many family budgets. Often the only means available for thousands of Canadians across this country to see these amazing creatures is through an aquarium setting.

We have learned much about cetaceans. We learned that they are very intelligent creatures. It was not that many years ago that killer whales or orcas were thought to be extremely dangerous and hated creatures. We have since learned much about the true nature of these animals. However we still have much to learn.

It is certainly true that research can and must be done in the wild. However there are times when that research cannot be achieved and learned without a controlled environment.

The emotional side of this debate is often the most publicized. Yes, we can and we should have feelings. However all too often we have allowed our emotions to overrule all other parts of the debate. We need to keep all the parts in balance. We cannot rely solely on emotions and ignore other factors when we are debating issues such as this. We must make decisions based on as much of the information as possible that is available to us.

I must confess that I would have been much more supportive of the member's motion if it had called for a ban on commercial whale harvesting for food and other purposes. I am particularly concerned about reports of Russian and Japanese fishers not adhering to the accepted international whaling rules. In today's world I do not believe there is any need to harvest whales for food or process them for other products. Yes, they were used for food, oil and many other products historically. I believe we have moved well beyond the need to harvest whales for this purpose.

We need to ensure that the historical use of these animals is not a reason to continue their harvesting. Just because we did something in the past does not mean we should continue to do it now or in the future. We can probably think of many examples of the past where this would be true.

When I step back and consider all of these issues together, I believe that at the end of the day there would probably more to be lost through this motion than gained in its present form. What I would be more supportive of is a set of guidelines or legislation that states how these animals may be captured, studied, housed and viewed in a humane way. I believe we have a responsibility to ensure that unscrupulous people cannot take advantage of or abuse these creatures. However thousands of Canadians who have never had a chance to view these magnificent animals up close should not be denied the opportunity to do so. The much needed research on these animals close up should be permitted, albeit in a limited fashion.

It has already been pointed out by the hon. member across the floor that the care and maintenance of these animals in aquariums is really a provincial responsibility. It seems to me that the hon. member from the NDP ought to take her cause up with the provinces in this regard.

At the end of the day, I believe that more can be gained through bona fide research, public, environmental and conservation education. I thank the member for her motion and the opportunity to participate in this debate today.

CetaceansPrivate Members' Business

11:35 a.m.


Pauline Picard Bloc Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in support of Motion No. 75 by the hon. member for Vancouver East. The Bloc Quebecois supports this motion and also calls upon Canada to take positive steps and adopt positive guidelines concerning cetaceans, their conditions, protection of their lives and trade in these species.

The main objective of having a zoo or aquarium is to enable people to observe the animals in a cage or pool. According to an organization called Zoocheck, each visitor spends an average of 60 seconds observing each exhibited animal.

The problem in this situation is the cruelty inflicted on marine mammals when they are captured. The capture is often extremely violent. It is not a rare occurrence for females to abort their young, or for animals to beach themselves or drown.

Specimens may be pursued for hours. Once caught, they are hauled out of the water. A number of unscrupulous hunters will haul them out by the tail. They are then transported on a sort of stretcher. Because they are out of the water for a number of hours, their skin rapidly dehydrates, they have difficulty breathing and they develop sores wherever their skin rubs against their restraints.

A long flight may follow. Shipping one killer whale to the aquarium that had purchased it took 68 hours.

It took 18 hours to fly two dolphins from California to Florida. By the time they arrived, their blow holes had become so obstructed that one died within days.

Recently, Lufthansa Airlines decided that it would no longer transport captive dolphins because doing so caused the animals suffering and was too risky.

Another problem is the environmental imbalance and threat to the survival of certain species. According to Cetacean Societies , which was written last year by an American collective, 66% of all mammals captured worldwide are adult females.

Because of the essential role played by females, this has a serious effect on the group's reproductive rates and social cohesion.

On March 14, 1990, the U.S. government decided to suspend any captures of bottlenose dolphins in the Gulf of Mexico because the species was seriously in danger of disappearing.

Right now, the dolphin population in the Black Sea is endangered because of the combined effect of population depletion and captures by zoos and aquatic parks.

Arriving in a pool is a triple shock for a newly captured dolphin: first, its living space is suddenly and spectacularly reduced; second, it is put into close and unconstrained contact with human beings and other dolphins not members of its own family; third, it is forced to consume dead fish rather than the live prey to which it is accustomed.

Because of these traumas, aquariums must confine dolphins to an isolated pool for periods that can sometimes last as long as one month in order to help them adapt to their new life.

They are then force-fed dead fish, which must be an absolutely dreadful experience for the dolphin. Fifty percent of captured dolphins die within days of arrival at an aquarium.

The amount of activity and space is very important for cetaceans. In the wild, a normal grouping of dolphins totals about thirty. They range throughout a territory some 125 kilometres long and frequently travel beyond it toward other groups.

Pacific dolphins like to dive down to 535 metres in depth while the Atlantic dolphins frequently stay at a depth of 390 metres. They spend a scant 20% of their time on the surface. Their time is mainly spent searching for bottom-dwelling invertebrates, exploring long distances, and hunting as a group.

Dolphins culturally transmit many things to their young in a variety of ways: socialization, games, vocalizations and how to raise and protect offspring. Young dolphins are protected for five to fifteen years and intergenerational contacts remain frequent once they have reached adulthood.

No matter how large an aquarium pool, it forces cetaceans into inactivity. They have no control whatsoever over their activities and mating behaviour. This limited and artificial environment and the social interaction with only a few individuals is the reason captive animals suffer and die.

The restriction of movement leads to muscular sclerosis, or to some muscles developing more than others. The mammals are constantly stressed and nervous, as well as more aggressive. They also lack appetite because of their lack of exercise. Their health is also affected by the fact that the water in the pool is chlorinated and lacks nutrients and sunlight, and that they are constantly on antibiotics.

In the wild, even violent conflict rarely leads to serious injury, because the male who is losing can always admit defeat and flee. The females are the ones most dominant.

In captivity, the largest male dominates all the rest. During breeding season, the fights between males are extremely violent. To avoid fights between the males, some aquariums keep only one male per pool.

In captivity, the make-up of these groups is seriously disrupted. When they are in their natural habitat, several generations of females live with their offspring in a specific territory, while males are gathered on the outskirts, based on complex alliances. During their adult life, they only make brief visits to their parents. Families are usually made up of two males and one female.

When in captivity, this ratio is reversed and females outnumber males, thus triggering abnormal conflicts between females that are pregnant or about to give birth. Sometimes, jealous females will even kill babies. A kind of forced polygamy is organized, but it does not reflect the natural model at all.

When they live freely, males do not usually socialize for very long with the female social group. Therefore, living in captivity deeply affects this type of organization. Adult males are forced to interact closely, both night and day, with females. This forced interaction exacerbates male dominance. Based on what has been observed in basins, it is clear that this dominance by a single male is the source of many behavioural problems, particularly among the group's young marine mammals.

When they live freely, female dolphins usually have a baby every two or three years. The young dolphin receives a real education to ensure its future survival and allow it to fully develop as a member of the group.

Fifty per cent of dolphins living in captivity die before the age of one. Of that number, 23% die during the first month.

In Quebec, there are no cetaceans in captivity. Because of our geographical location, the industry prefers to promote observation of cetaceans in their natural environment. Such a practice, provided it is conducted at a minimal distance, has much less of an impact on cetaceans then keeping them captive in basins.

Tourists come from all over the world to have an opportunity to watch whales and belugas from the Saguenay. Observing cetaceans like this tells us a lot more about their lifestyle and habits than watching them for a few minutes while they are in captivity or performing tricks.

I will stop here and reiterate my support. The Bloc Quebecois supports Motion No. 75.

CetaceansPrivate Members' Business

11:45 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Gerald Keddy Progressive Conservative South Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to address Motion No. 75 put forward by the member for Vancouver East.

The motion would see stronger protection put in place for cetaceans, especially a moratorium on the live capture and trade of whales, dolphins and porpoises. The member for Malpeque said that a moratorium on the live capture of cetaceans, whales, dolphins and porpoises has been in place since 1992.

I would be interested in hearing the member's response to my questions, but unfortunately we do not get the opportunity for questions and answers. I am sure the member for Vancouver East was dying to ask some questions. There needs to be a broader debate on the entire issue. Through that type of debate we can get down to the fact of whether we should or should not be supporting the live capture of whales, dolphins and porpoises.

There are two sides to the issue. First, the live capture of whales for display in aquariums allows scientists and researchers to discover significant amounts of information about the lifestyle, reproduction and communication of these mammals and preserves what can be an endangered species for future generations.

Second, whales are very intelligent animals. When caged in aquariums it is believed they can lead bored, lonely and stressful lives. The last orca whale in the Vancouver Aquarium is being sent to San Diego SeaWorld so that it can interact with other whales.

Public opinion has played a significant role in Canada's attitude toward the live capture of whales. After much public outcry, the Vancouver Aquarium decided that it would not capture or bring any whales captured after September 1996 into the aquarium. However the aquarium can still exchange whales with other facilities. Currently there are 30 whales in aquariums within North America and 21 outside the continent.

At the same time information about cetaceans may improve by studying these mammals in captivity. As a result of studying whales in a controlled environment researchers realized that the gestation period for whales was longer than previously thought. This information resulted in the International Whaling Commission reducing Norway's whale quota to reflect this longer timeframe. The long term survival of the species may be facilitated by research that is conducted in a controlled environment and that would be difficult to conduct on a species in the wild.

Orcas off Canada's west coast are low in numbers and have recently been declining. The orca herd on the east coast, from Iceland through to Newfoundland and off the coast of Greenland, seems to be in much better condition than the ones on the west coast. Environmentalists and biologists are not sure of the cause of the decline, but one factor may be the high level of contamination in the food chain. Orcas consume vast quantities of food and are at the higher end of the food chain, causing high levels of PCBs to build up from the number of seal and salmon consumed.

Another issue that would be a factor in their decline is a lack of sufficient food. Salmon numbers are also declining and this may be preventing orcas from finding enough food to meet their daily intake requirements.

In any case numbers are declining. We need to question once again whether it is important to support the live capture of whales so that more scientific research can be conducted into this decline, or whether we are simply appeasing our desire to have the opportunity to see these creatures in accessible settings and increase tourist numbers.

There is little question that whales in particular attract human attention. The rising number of whale watching operations and the increased number of visitors to aquariums when whales, dolphins and porpoises are part of the exhibit attest to their popularity.

While orca numbers are declining other whale populations are increasing. The grey whale count is estimated at 26,000 off the coast of British Columbia. It is suggested that overpopulation is the reason there are increasing numbers of grey whales washing up along the coast.

On the east coast there has been good news lately regarding whale populations, particularly the northern right whale which is considered the rarest of the large whales. Researchers with east coast ecosystems in Nova Scotia recently announced that the number of newborn whales reached 25, the largest count since 1980 when births were first recorded.

It is widely believed by a number of scientists on the east coast that there is a rogue pod of right whales that are deep ocean whales. We do not see them in the inner Bay of Fundy and other areas, but they are actually interbreeding with the right whales that are there now.

This whale is certainly not anything close to emulating the escalating population that is occurring for grey whales, but the small number of existing northern right whales is encouraging, particularly after disappointing birth rates over the past couple of years. These numbers are especially encouraging when we consider that the entire population of right whales along the eastern seaboard is optimistically estimated at around 350, a very low number.

There are significant hurdles that young whales have to overcome if they are to reach maturity. Many die within the first six months possibly from chemical contamination, while others become entangled in fishing gear or are struck by ships. A biologist with the University of Oregon has been quoted as saying that about one-third of all animals found dead are from ship collisions. Over two-thirds of the population is scarred from entanglements in fishing gear.

That makes this especially troubling since recent cutbacks by the current federal government have forced the coast guard to terminate its effort in freeing whales trapped by fishing gear. With two-thirds of right whales scarred from having been caught in fishing gear this is not a service that should be eliminated, not if the Department of Fisheries and Oceans is serious about whale conservation.

Efforts need to be made to try to reduce the number of whales caught in fishing gear. By eliminating this service by DFO, the government is once again signalling that its commitment to whale conservation is in words only.

Collisions with ships are one of the major hazards facing right whales, with 16 of the known 45 right whale deaths since 1970 resulting from such collisions. Half the remaining whales congregate in the Bay of Fundy between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick from June to December. This makes whale watching a profitable enterprise in the area, but unfortunately the shipping traffic and fishing vessels in the area make it dangerous waters for the right whale.

East Coast Ecosystems Research has worked hard to promote whale conservation and has set up a whale sighting protocol. This program monitors right whale sightings and provides information to boats in the Bay of Fundy and along the Scotian shelf of Nova Scotia so that vessel operators are aware of whales in the area. Marine Communications and Traffic Services officers advise vessels traversing these waters that they are passing through an area where whales may be found. They provide co-ordinates of sightings and possible actions to divert a collision.

Perhaps we need a moratorium on the live capture of cetaceans but I am not entirely sure that we do. There are a number of things that we can do to help not only whales and dolphins but other marine species.

It is the government's responsibility to bring forth such legislation and to debate these issues in the House. We need to ensure that all sides of the issue are represented so that we can make decisions to the benefit of all Canadians and to the benefit of the mammals we are discussing.

It is clear that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans recognizes the need to help protect right whales, but its actions do not support its stated commitment to whale protection. It is time for the department to re-evaluate its plans in relation to right whale protection.

While we have taken steps toward conserving whale population there is still a long way to go. Scientists and biologists, not parliamentarians, need to debate whether the live capture of whales helps to increase public perception and knowledge of the plight of whales and other cetaceans, or whether there is more harm than good by keeping such mammals in aquariums so that they can be studied and examined.

There is one good example of scientific knowledge in the live capture of animals. It is taking place on Sable Island off the coast of Nova Scotia. I first went to Sable Island in 1980. That year we counted 60 or 70 dead horses on Sable Island because the government did not allow the live capture horses to be brought ashore when populations reached too high a point.

There was nothing wrong with those horses. They could have been brought ashore and homes could have been found for them. That did not occur because they were protected and the government did not allow their live capture. Sometimes there is a reason for live capture of animals.

CetaceansPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Keith Martin Canadian Alliance Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to this issue. I compliment the hon. member from the NDP for bringing the motion forward.

I would like to raise an extremely important issue. This is the proverbial canary in a mine shaft and it has to do with whales. Beluga whales are dying in the St. Lawrence Seaway. The amount of carcinogens and teratogens in their flesh is actually extraordinary. It is a direct result of the pollution that is taking place there.

I would like to present some of findings. Autopsies were done on 179 belugas over a 15 year period. The beluga whale population in the St. Lawrence has not improved at all and scientists are asking why. Scientists found extraordinarily high rates of malignant tumours, perforated ulcers in their bellies and diseases that compromise their immune system. They also found a whole range of illnesses never before seen in whale populations. The member from the NDP described the problems that these intelligent creatures have in captivity. They are no less threatened out in the wild sea.

I urge the government to look into these mammals because they are a harbinger of the toxins and pesticides that are in the St. Lawrence Seaway right now. The same content of DDTs, mirex and other cancer causing agents that we are exposed to are found in these mammals. In fact, the blubber in belugas would be considered to be toxic waste if it were lying on the ground because the levels are that high.

I also draw attention to the fact that the numbers in whale species that exist right now are not increasing. We have heard about the northern right whale in our waters but we have not heard about the blue whale, the largest creature ever to live on this planet. There are only 3,000 of these whales left. Many of them congregate in the Gulf of St. Lawrence every year along with other protected species such as the northern right whale.

Unfortunately the Norwegians, the Icelandic and the Japanese are slaughtering whales under the guise of scientific research. They simply cannot get around the moratorium that was put on whaling in 1971.

Our country has an enormous opportunity to bring the issue to the forefront. I strongly urge the government to work with our partners to stop international whaling and to look into the deaths of beluga whales. They are the canary in the mine shaft. They have high rates of cancer causing agents. It is what we are exposed to as human beings. I urge the government to look at it and clean the area up for everyone's sake.

CetaceansPrivate Members' Business


The Deputy Speaker

While the Chair takes note that other members indicated their desire to speak, we have only four minutes left under right of reply to the member for Vancouver East.

CetaceansPrivate Members' Business



Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank members who participated in the debate today. I especially thank my friend from the Bloc Quebecois who spoke in support of the motion. I certainly appreciate the support of that party.

I appreciate the support of other parties as well. In listening carefully to the debate it seems that all members who spoke from the Liberal, the Alliance and the Conservative Party outlined the fact that they had concerns with Canada's lack of policy for the protection of whales and dolphins in captivity. I certainly agree that there are huge issues regarding the ecosystem and the environment in the wild and that they are being undermined and violated.

The motion today deals with trade and captivity. I will set the record straight. The hon. member from the government side seemed to suggest that somehow we already had a moratorium in place and that what Canada was doing today was adequate.

I must say very strongly that is not case. What we are doing today is clearly inadequate. The 1992 moratorium of which the member spoke was for belugas only. It was not for all whales and dolphins. When Marineland's request to capture belugas from Churchill was denied, what did it do? It went offshore. It went to Russia. That is where it found belugas and whales for capture and import into Canada.

It begs the question. Clearly our existing practice is not adequate. It does not even come close to dealing with the concerns expressed today.

I was also very surprised to hear the government suggest that somehow the issue of captivity and maintenance is a provincial responsibility. It seems the government is very strong on its intent in terms of trade areas. Clearly this is a trade issue in terms of the import, export and trade of whales and dolphins.

I was very interested to hear the comments of members of the Canadian Alliance about how whale watching was something many people enjoyed. They argued that because we did not all have the opportunity to whale watch we needed captivity and aquariums.

This is a very important ethical issue. Do we have the right to take animals out of their natural environment, place them in small tanks in captivity, separate them from their natural family group and somehow say that it is natural and educational? I would argue that is not the case.

I urge the government to adopt the recommendations in Dr. Lien's report. He outlines that we need a moratorium to further analyze and debate the issues raised today in the House regarding ethics, education, and the long term impact of captivity and the ongoing trade. I urge the government to follow that report.

In closing, I thank the organizations that helped bring the motion forward. It continues to do outstanding work in putting pressure on the government to accept its responsibility, to make sure we have humane policies and rules, and to see that we get a moratorium on the capture and trade of whales and dolphins. I seek unanimous consent of the House to make the motion a votable motion.

CetaceansPrivate Members' Business

12:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Does the hon. member have unanimous consent to put the proposal?

CetaceansPrivate Members' Business

12:05 p.m.

Some hon. members


CetaceansPrivate Members' Business

12:05 p.m.

Some hon. members


CetaceansPrivate Members' Business

12:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The time provided for the consideration of Private Members' Business has now expired. Since the motion has not been deemed votable, the item is dropped from the order paper.

Employment Insurance ActGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario


Don Boudria LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I wish to inform the House that an agreement pursuant to Standing Order 78(2) has been reached with regard to the allocation of time for Bill C-2. Therefore I move:

That in relation to Bill C-2, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act and the Employment Insurance (Fishing) Regulations, not more than one further hour shall be allotted to the consideration of the report stage of the bill and one sitting day shall be allotted to the third reading stage of the said bill and, at the expiry of the time provided for the report stage and at fifteen minutes before the expiry of the time provided for Government Orders on the day allocated for the third reading stage of the said bill, any proceedings before the House shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of this Order, and in turn every question necessary for the disposal of the stage of the bill then under consideration shall be put and disposed of forthwith and successively without further debate, amendment or adjournment.

Once the motion is passed, assuming it is, I would return to the House and I think there would be consent that the vote be deferred until this evening, to be taken at the same time as other votes.

Perhaps we should do it in steps. I will move the motion and then I will be back to Mr. Speaker.

Employment Insurance ActGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.


Michel Gauthier Bloc Roberval, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Could we have a few minutes before a decision is made on this? We would have some checking to do on the motion that has just been brought forward.

Employment Insurance ActGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

If I may make a suggestion, while I am checking the wording of the motion moved by the minister, perhaps these discussions might take place.

Employment Insurance ActGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Chuck Strahl Canadian Alliance Fraser Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I heard the terms of the motion which will be put to a vote shortly. I assure the government once again that we have just two speakers left on the bill. I do not think it necessary to time allocate it, because we can get through it without such a measure. Either way, we are happy to see the legislation dealt with quickly.

Employment Insurance ActGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I am not certain that was a point of order, but I think the negotiations have been completed.

Employment Insurance ActGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.


Michel Gauthier Bloc Roberval, QC

Mr. Speaker, I heard you say that there is consent for this motion, but there is not consent from all opposition parties.

Employment Insurance ActGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

If I may, the consent mentioned in this motion refers to Standing Order 78(2) that says—all of the exact wording escapes me, but I could quote them—that the motion requires the consent of the majority of parties.

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

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12:10 p.m.

Some hon. members


Employment Insurance ActGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

Some hon. members


Employment Insurance ActGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Employment Insurance ActGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

Some hon. members


Employment Insurance ActGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

All those opposed will please say nay.

Employment Insurance ActGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

Some hon. members