Two More Belugas Join Marineland’s Growing List of Casualties

Two more belugas have died at Marineland, bringing the escalating death toll to 17 whales since 2019. The recent deaths underscore the ongoing animal welfare crisis at the notorious Niagara Falls tourist attraction.

Animal Justice has repeatedly called on provincial law enforcement authorities to take action to enforce Ontario’s laws and improve the health and well-being of animals imprisoned at Marineland, yet marine mammals continue to perish in barren tanks. Animal Welfare Services (AWS) has allegedly been investigating Marineland since 2020, but officials refuse to disclose any details of the probe and have yet to lay a single charge, despite the obviously illegal conditions. 

Since 2019, Marineland has also buried one dolphin, two seals, two sea lions, and Kiska the orca—who was isolated in a tank for over a decade. Three of the five belugas Marineland sold and exported to Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut in May, 2021 have also died.

The Ministry of the Solicitor General, the government body responsible for animal welfare, released a statement acknowledging the most recent beluga deaths, but provided no information about what killed the animals. Marineland claims that “independent necropsies” confirm the belugas both died from torsion, an abnormal twisting of the stomach—but Phil Demers, a former whistleblower employee of the facility, is skeptical. According to an interview with CBC, he contends that torsion is frequently cited as the cause of death in an attempt to appease the public or obscure the truth about deaths. 

Marineland’s Troubling Cruelty Charges

In March, 2024, Marineland was convicted of offences under Ontario’s animal welfare laws for its treatment of three young bears—marking the first animal cruelty conviction in Marineland’s long history of escaping legal accountability for unlawful animal cruelty. 

In 2016, Marineland was charged with five counts of animal cruelty, involving black bears, guinea hens, and a peacock. In 2017, six additional charges were added for the mistreatment of elk and deer, but all charges were later dropped by the Crown. 

In 2021, prompted by a complaint from Animal Justice, the police charged Marineland with the criminal offence of using dolphins to perform for entertainment—which has been illegal in Canada since 2019. The charge was shockingly also dropped by the Crown.

In 2021 and 2022, Animal Justice filed complaints with AWS after videos surfaced showing Kiska, who at the time was known as one of the loneliest orcas in the world, repeatedly slamming her head and body against her tank walls, but no charges were laid.

What the Future Holds for this House of Horrors

Since 2021, there have been reports that Marineland is up for sale. Rumours resurfaced this past week, though the facility denies its doors are closing. Whether Marineland continues operations as normal or is sold to owners who aren’t interested in the animal captivity business, we must keep fighting to protect the animals at Marineland from suffering and death. Law enforcement and prosecutors have largely failed the animals confined at Marineland, while sending a clear message that zoos and aquariums can often get away with illegal activity. Join us in urging the government to step in and help send these animals to sanctuaries, before it’s too late.