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Another beluga dies at Marineland, bringing total whale deaths to 15 since 2019

Another beluga whale has died at Marineland, bringing the number of whales that have died at the Niagara Falls, Ont., tourist attraction to 15 over the past four years.

The province’s Animal Welfare Services has been investigating Marineland since it took over animal cruelty enforcement in 2020.

“The ministry is aware of the death of a beluga whale and a sea lion at Marineland,” Brent Ross, a spokesman with the Ministry of the Solicitor General, wrote in an email.

Since January 2020, Marineland has made the ministry aware of the deaths of 14 beluga whales, one orca, one bottlenose dolphin, one harbour seal, one grey seal and two California sea lions, Ross added.

Marineland did not respond to a request for comment.

Marineland says on its website that it has a “strong record” of providing for the welfare of its animals and will “continue to prioritize their health and well-being.”

The office of Solicitor General Michael Kerzner, which oversees the ministry in charge of Animal Welfare Services, said the province is a leader in the protection of animals.

“AWS continues to conduct compliance inspections at Marineland to determine if the standards of care are being met,”  Hunter Kell, Kerzner’s spokesman, wrote in an email.

“As previously shown, AWS will not hesitate to issue orders if Marineland is not in compliance with all rules, regulations, and standards of care regarding the welfare of animals.”

The news of the beluga death comes days after a third beluga whale transferred from Marineland in 2021 died at Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut.

Marineland sold five belugas to the U.S. facility and they were moved in May 2021. Mystic said the two previous beluga deaths were due to pre-existing conditions they had coming from Marineland.

The U.S. government launched an investigation after the first two beluga deaths and the probe remains ongoing. The Canadian federal government has previously said they are not investigating the move.

The week the whales were moved, Ontario’s Animal Welfare Services found all marine mammals at Marineland to be in distress due to poor water quality. In court documents, Marineland denied its animals were in distress and denied water played a role in any whale death.

A few weeks ago, former Marineland trainer Phil Demers, who is the co-founder of animal activist organization UrgentSeas, launched a drone over the beluga tanks at Marineland, which is closed to the public for the winter. Video of that drone footage was posted online by UrgentSeas and appeared to show one beluga floating “listlessly,” Demers said.

“It didn’t look healthy,” Demers said. “It reminded me of the belugas I’ve seen in bad shape right before they died during my time at Marineland.”

They put the drone up again over the beluga tanks on Sunday and counted 36 belugas. There had been 37 belugas at the park when The Canadian Press visited in June.

“We could be angry that beluga whales are dying en masse, as we should be, but equally, it’s frustrating that exactly nothing is being done to stop it,” Demers said.

“Where’s the accountability for Marineland or the province, which is supposed to protect the animals in captivity.”

A Canadian Press investigation revealed earlier this year that 13 belugas, a dolphin and the country’s lone killer whale, Kiska, have died at Marineland since 2019.

Twelve of the beluga deaths occurred within a two-year window. Documents obtained through freedom-of-information laws show a beluga named Ikora dying on Oct. 24, 2019, followed by 10 others and a beluga named Bull dying on Nov. 23, 2021.

The province’s four-year-long investigation of Marineland remains shrouded in mystery, with officials refusing to disclose details of its probe, what it is doing at the park and how the animals died.

&copy 2023 The Canadian Press


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