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Battle over captive marine mammals brewing in Ontario

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The Ontario government says it will introduce a new law to protect marine mammals, including a ban on the acquisition and breeding of killer whales. While animal rights activists are cautiously optimistic, Niagara Falls' Marineland says Ontario may be overstepping its bounds. In a statement, Marineland says the acquisition of orcas is governed by international treaties and laws and, therefore, comes under the jurisdiction of the federal government of Canada and Ontario may not have the authority to circumvent that.

The safety minister announced that Ontario would become the first province in Canada to bring forward legislation to prohibit any future breeding and acquisition of orcas.

It would set up a technical advisory committee to come up with standards of care for marine animals. Those standards would also cover dolphins, belugas and walruses and they appear to be aimed at theme parks and aquariums that display the marine mammals.
 
Dylan Powell, an animal rights activist with Marineland Animal Defense, says he is cautiously optimistic, since there are many positive aspects to the proposed legislation. But Powell also fears any watering down of the proposal over the next six months.
 
"The announcement by Yasr Nasqvi, the minister, it wasn't a recommendation to ban the sale and the importation of orcas, either in the CCAC report or in the Rosen report. So, he did that himself and now he's come out with a big bang. It's going to be up to him to stick to it," said Powell.
 
Other activists say it's a recognition that confining killer whales in small tanks for human entertainment is inhumane.

Much of what Ontario based its proposed law on comes from a report by David Rosen, a marine biologist at the University of British Columbia. His report also dealt with the size of pools that marine mammals are kept in, environmental considerations such as noise and lighting, social groupings for the animals and regulations for their handling and display.

The advisory group is to report back to the minister with its final recommendations in six months.