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Canada Bans Whales And Dolphins Being Kept In Captivity

A law known as the 'Free Will bill' has passed in Canada, banning the captivity of whales and dolphins.

Canada has passed legislation that bans keeping whales and dolphins in captivity for entertainment purposes.

Bill S-203, otherwise known as the 'Free Willy bill', which passed the Senate on Monday means that these marine mammals can no longer be traded, kept, caught, or bred in Canada.

Orcas. Source: Getty images.

The bill was endorsed by over 20 marine scientists and animal rights organisations, who agreed that whales and dolphins suffer great psychological and physical harm in captivity.

Senator Wilfred Moore, who first introduced the bill in 2015, said Canada's lawmakers have a "moral obligation to phase out the capture and retention of animals for profit and entertainment."

The Vancouver Aquarium, and Marineland at Niagra Falls, are the only institutions in the country that keep whales and dolphins.

Vancouver Aquarium committed in January 2018 to stop keeping whales and dolphins, but it still has a single Pacific white-sided dolphin called Helen on display.

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The aquarium is still unsure what to do with Helen, as there are health risks associated with transporting her, while and buying another dolphin to keep her company would violate the board's decision.

Marineland has an orca called Kiska and a group of beluga whales.

Whales and dolphins are highly intelligent, social animals that naturally travel long distances in the wild. As a result of being confined to concrete pools, these animals regularly show signs of stress and boredom such as repetitive behaviour and circling of their enclosures.

Source: Getty Images.

Captivity also appears to damage the physical health of whales and dolphins, with the death rate for captive orcas two and a half times higher than in the wild.

Pneumonia is the most common cause of death for captive orcas, because of the constant state of low-level stress they experience. One 2017 study of orcas also found a quarter of those kept in captivity in the U.S. showed severe tooth damage.

This poor dental health can lead to kidney disease, much like in humans and in 1981 SeaWorld actually lost an orca known as Canuck II to chronic kidney disease at just six years old.

Source: Getty Images.

The problems associated with keeping these creatures in tanks were initially brought to widespread attention by documentary 'Blackfish'.

The documentary spurred a ripple of fines and legislative changes, and damaged reputations in the aquarium entertainment industry -- particularly for SeaWorld -- which came to be known as the 'Blackfish effect'.

In 2016 Baltimore's National Aquarium announced it would be taking the unprecedented step of moving their eight Atlantic bottlenose dolphins to a seaside sanctuary for the sake of their welfare.

The move won't be happening until 2020 due to logistical issues, but once moved, the animals will have the opportunity to swim great distances and interact with natural wildlife.