A few days ago, the Canadian Government passed what people have called the "Free Willy" bill. The law explicitly prohibits whale and dolphin captivity across Canada.
If you look at this bill in detail, however, there is a "grandfather clause" that allows Marineland from this new law. The controversial theme park will be allowed to continue operations, despite it now being a criminal offence to do so.
Offenders can be fined up to $200,000 for not following the law. Marineland has long disagreed with this law since it was first introduced to the Senate in 2015.
The bill bans the capture, sale, and import of whales and dolphins across the country. Marineland claims they are exempt from it, perhaps because the theme park maintains that it will continue to operate as a "rehabilitation and rescue centre," and these mammals still require a home.
The park currently has over 61 cetaceans in captivity, if the Wikipedia page is accurate. While they're allowed to continue operations as an aquarium, the animals will no longer be allowed to perform for entertainment. They'll still be in tanks and on display, however.
Marie Holer, of Marineland, says in an official press release that, "We've been working to evolve Marineland for over a year and have made many positive changes to the park, including the new educational presentation on marine mammals."
Marineland has long disputed the idea that keeping whales and dolphins in captivity is abusive to the animal. They're quick to mention how many people the park employs as counter-arguments.
Though Marineland is trying to reform its tarnished reputation, animal activists still decry the fact that the theme park is still allowed to exist.
Despite the new law, the park is here to stay. It's estimated that with the current crop of captive cetaceans, the park can continue operations for some time.
The Vancouver Aquarium in British Columbia will also be allowed to continue operations but in a more limited capacity.
The "Free Willy" law was an incredible coup for animal rights activists in Canada and around the world.
It's too bad that theme parks, profiting off whale and dolphin captivity, will continue to operate. Though while they continue to stay open, marine life activist Phil Demers insists that the law "directly affects their operations," as they will no longer be able to partake any mass breeding or international sales.
Editor's Note: A previous version of this article implied that Marineland Canada would be able to continue operations "as usual," despite this new law.
After speaking with Phil Demers, we realized that the Marineland press release was putting a positive spin on the impact of this bill and that their operations have, in fact, been severely impacted by the new legislation.
Marineland will be allowed to continue operations despite the "Free Willy" law, Canada's new ban on whale and dolphin captivity, as they are protected by the grandfather clause that exists within the bill. Despite this grandfather clause, Marineland's operations have been seriously impacted thanks to this impressive new piece of legislation.
To read Marineland's official press release, click here.