How many beluga whales will suffer and die at the hands of the Vancouver Aquarium? That’s the question being asked by filmmaker Gary Charbonneau, whose hard-hitting new documentary, Vancouver Aquarium Uncovered, calls out the Canadian facility for its duplicitous claims, conflicts of interest, and culpability in beluga mortality.
Four out of five belugas born at the Vancouver Aquarium have died, none having survived to the age of 3. It bears noting that the three orca calves and two dolphin calves born at the aquarium also died. Of the 10 animals born, nine are dead—a 90 percent infant-mortality rate.
Yet inexplicably determined to assert that their facility has no breeding program, aquarium officials have outsourced the carnage to none other than SeaWorld. SeaWorld’s beluga breeding program would not exist without the two male belugas provided by the Vancouver Aquarium. But the aquarium’s hands-off approach doesn’t stop its managers from having blood on their hands.
A 3-week-old beluga calf, who was never even given a name, died last year at SeaWorld San Antonio. Two-year-old Stella died just months later. The babies’ father, Imaq, is one of the whales on loan from Vancouver. Imaq was captured and stolen from his family and ocean home in 1990.
In 2015, the other male beluga on loan from Vancouver to SeaWorld, Nanuq, died after his jaw was fractured in an altercation with another whale. He had also been taken from the ocean and spent three decades in a tank. He was airlifted from one SeaWorld location to the next, hauled around for approximately 11,000 miles.
SeaWorld collects semen from Imaq (and from Nanuq before he died) by masturbating the whales. The females are then artificially inseminated, a traumatic and invasive procedure.
In a nine-year period, five belugas perished at SeaWorld. Two more were stillborn. Seven have managed to survive, a 50 percent mortality rate. All 14 were fathered by Imaq or Nanuq.
Renowned conservationist Dr. Jane Goodall has said that the Vancouver Aquarium’s breeding program is “no longer defensible by science.”
The riveting Vancouver Aquarium Uncovered digs much deeper into the denial, collusion, half-truths, and complicity of those involved in this deadly debacle. Watch this documentary, and I promise: You won’t be able to tear yourself away … and you won’t want to.