TORONTO – The Niagara Regional Police Service has charged Marineland with illegally using dolphins in performances at the aquarium. The criminal charge was laid after Animal Justice filed a legal complaint with the police earlier this year.
It has been a criminal offence since 2019 to use whales and dolphins in performances for entertainment. The practice was prohibited at the same time that Canada passed national laws to phase out whale and dolphin captivity. Yet despite the ban on entertainment performances, Marineland continued to use dolphins and beluga whales in daily shows that it described as “educational performances”.
Video footage obtained by Animal Justice earlier this year of Marineland’s dolphin performance featured a pop music soundtrack, trainers announcing a “dolphin dance party”, and dolphins performing tricks that included jumping out of the water, spinning in the air, and pushing trainers through the water. Spectators were encouraged by staff to cheer on the tricks.
“We are pleased that the Niagara Police have charged Marineland with unlawfully forcing dolphins to perform for entertainment, in violation of federal criminal law,” said lawyer Camille Labchuk, executive director of Animal Justice. “Canada passed groundbreaking new laws in 2019 specifically aimed at ensuring that whales and dolphins are not used in demeaning entertainment performances. Animal Justice’s legal complaint was aimed at ensuring that those laws are respected, to protect these sensitive and intelligent animals.”
Marineland has long been criticized for the animal welfare conditions at its facility. Earlier this year, provincial animal welfare authorities issued multiple orders against Marineland, after a lengthy investigation determined that marine mammals at the facility were in distress due to poor water quality.
Authorities are also investigating a separate legal complaint filed by Animal Justice over the apparent distress and suffering experienced by Kiska, an orca whale confined by herself in a tank for the past decade. Video footage emerged this summer showing Kiska floating listlessly, thrashing her body against the side of her tank, and swimming endlessly in circles. It is unlawful under both federal and provincial law to cause suffering or distress to an animal, including psychological suffering or distress. Experts have stated that Kiska is the world’s loneliest orca.
Marineland closed for the season in October. It has been reported that the facility is for sale for real estate development, and may not reopen.