Editorial: Whale of a win in parliament not the end of the fight

Whales and dolphins are amazing creatures.

It’s taken a long time to get here.

Finally this week the federal government banned the captivity of whales and dolphins in Canada, with the passage of Bill S-203 through Parliament.

Cowichan’s own MP Alistair MacGregor was among those who urged a fellow member of parliament to give up his private members bill time in order to make it happen. All of our lawmakers who contributed to this bill becoming law deserve praise.

Whales and dolphins are amazing creatures. It’s long been the practice for large-scale marine tourist attractions to keep them for the pleasure of the viewing public. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been so good for the animals themselves.

No matter how well these facilities have treated the whales and dolphins in their care, it cannot make up for the fact that they are, by necessity, forced to live in spaces that are tiny compared to their natural habitat. Just as damaging, they are taken away from their families — and yes, these animals are highly social creatures that live in groups. At marine park attractions they often have no others of their kind with which to interact. They are also forced to interact with humans to an unnatural degree, day after day. All too often, these captives have come to tragic ends.

While once these things were minor considerations compared to the priority of making money off of the amazement of the public, times have changed, and it’s past time that we change with it.

If you want to view dolphins and whales, do it responsibly, in their natural habitat. Take a whale-watching tour with a reputable company that keeps a respectful distance from these creatures.

But this isn’t the end of the fight. These marine mammals and others desperately need us humans not only to stop kidnapping them, but to stop the degradation of their natural habitat through garbage dumping, incautious marine traffic, climate change and depletion of their food sources.

It’s about respect for nature.

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