Canada's lawmakers have voted to ban the captivity of whales and dolphins, though with a few caveats.
Bill S-203, the "Ending the Captivity of Whales and Dolphins Act," originated in the Senate in 2015, and was passed by the House of Commons on Monday. It now awaits Royal Assent, after which it will become law.
The bill forbids the capture, captive breeding, import and export of cetaceans, but does not require the release of those animals currently already held in captivity in Canada. Whales, dolphins and porpoises are currently held in captivity at Marineland in Niagara Falls, Ont., and the Vancouver Aquarium, and have been essentially grandfathered in under the new legislation.
The law also wouldn't apply to cetaceans being rescued and rehabilitated after an injury, nor does it ban scientific research, provided researchers have the correct license. People convicted under the law face fines of up to $200,000.
Conservation groups and NGOs have been pushing for the ban for years, many arguing that cetaceans' high levels of intelligence made prolonged captivity a form of animal cruelty.
"Whales and dolphins don’t belong in tanks, and the inherent suffering these highly social and intelligent animals endure in intensive confinement can no longer be tolerated," Rebecca Aldworth, Executive Director of Humane Society International/Canada, said in a release from the organization.