Canada made it illegal on Monday for dolphins or whales to be held in captivity, a law that opponents have criticised for being anti-science. photo by Brian Kersey/UPI | License Photo
June 10 (UPI) -- Following years of debate since the bill was submitted to parliament, Canada on Monday banned whale and dolphin captivity.
Bill S-203, known colloquially as the "Free Willy" bill and officially as the Ending the Captivity of Whales and Dolphins Act, passed Canada's House of Commons by a vote of 222 to 85, making it fineable up to $150,000 for holding a whale or dolphin captive. There are exceptions for keeping the marine animals for rehabilitation purposes and research.
The bill was tabled on Dec. 3, 2015, by former Sen. Wilfred Moore and was later sponsored by Green Party Leader Elizabeth May.
The Green Party cheered news of the bill's passing its third reading, stating, "when we work together, good things happen."
The bill will have the greatest impact upon two amusement parks: the Vancouver Aquarium, which has one dolphin, according to advocacy groups, and Niagara Falls' Marineland, which owns over 60 relevant animals, the CBC reported.
Marineland has long been an opponent of the bill, previously stating it "impairs legitimate scientific and research programs."
"The bill and the debate around it [have] been highly emotional lacking in fact-based or science-based analysis and mired in unnecessary conflict incited by radical animal rights groups from the United States," Marineland said in an October 2018 statement against the bill.
The Vancouver Aquarium announced in January that it would no longer keep whales or dolphins.
Humane Canada said news of the bill's passing was worthy to "splash a fin at."
"Nothing fantastic ever happens in a hurry," the group said on Twitter. "But today, we celebrate that we have ended the captivity and breeding of whales and dolphins."