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Updated: Thu, 31 Jul 2014 21:00:14 GMT | By CBC News, cbc.ca

Fate of Vancouver Aquarium's whale program could be decided tonight



Questions around whether Vancouver Aquarium should be allowed to keep beluga whales and other cetaceans are being reviewed by the Park Board. CBC

Questions around whether Vancouver Aquarium should be allowed to keep beluga whales and other cetaceans are being reviewed by the Park Board. CBC

The future of the Vancouver Aquarium's captive whales and dolphins program could be decided tonight as the Vancouver Park Board holds its third and final special meeting on the issue. 

More than a hundred speakers have voiced their thoughts on the Vancouver Aquarium's controversial program over the course of the park board meetings.

"We will know tonight whether or not there will be any action taken on the captive cetacean program," said park board chair Aaron Jasper.

Originally, 133 members of the public signed up to speak on the issue, with around 80 addressing the board for three minutes each over the course of two nights.

Get updates from the meeting as it happens in our live blog:

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Daylon Payne used her time to deliver an online petition with 16,500 signatures against keeping the cetaceans in tanks.

"This is the voice of the public. The public is where the aquarium sits, it is on public ground. The public should be having the right to say what they do want and what they don't," she said.

One of those who spoke in favour of keeping the program was UBC researcher Andrew Trites.

"There are lots of questions we have about the nutritional needs of mammals and why some populations are increasing or decreasing, and we can only answer that by observing animals in human care."

However, CBC News found opinions mixed among scientists with many speaking against confining whales and dolphins in aquarium pools.

In May, renowned conservationist Jane Goodall weighed in on the controversy penning a letter to the aquarium saying on-site cetacean breeding is "no longer defensible by science."

Aquarium could sue for costs

Staff from the aquarium also spoke at the meeting on Monday, including CEO John Nightingale, who said if the park board votes to ban whales and dolphins in tanks, the aquarium will take legal action to recover some of the costs of its recent $50 million expansion, which was approved by the board in 2006.

The aquarium is licensed by the park board. Current policy is not to capture mammals for captivity, but to breed cetaceans that are already in the aquarium's care.

Rescued marine mammals considered unfit to be released back into the wild are also kept at the aquarium.

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