21 February 2017

Despite mystery over deaths, belugas to return to Vancouver aquarium


DOMINIKA LIRETTE  Globe & Mail February 21, 2017
 
The Vancouver Aquarium plans to bring back beluga whales by the spring of 2019, despite not knowing what killed two of the mammals last November.
 
Dr. John Nightingale, aquarium chief executive officer and president, said he hopes to bring in three to five belugas, but the facility plans to discontinue the display of belugas by 2029. This is the same year the aquarium’s lease expires with the Vancouver Park Board.
 
“We have not found a definitive cause as to how the animals died,” the aquarium’s head veterinarian Dr. Martin Haulena, said at a media event on Monday. They have not been able to rule out that something malicious happened.
 
The aquarium’s findings so far suggest it was a toxin that killed Qila, a 21-year-old beluga, and its 30-year-old mother, Aurora, 10 days later.
 
“It’s the worst thing that has happened in my professional career” said Dr. Haulena.
 
The aquarium has spent more than $100,000 on an ongoing investigation into the belugas’ deaths. Dr. Haulena said new belugas will not be brought into the facility until modifications have been made including increased security, better pest control and an examination of the run-off from soil surrounding the tank. Dr. Nightingale said the aquarium cannot guarantee there are no risks to the belugas, but it is trying to reduce them as much as possible.
 
He said the new belugas will be brought back primarily for research purposes and will be non-breeding.
 
He argues that the Arctic is changing at an unprecedented level and studying belugas in a controlled environment is necessary to better understand them.
 
The aquarium stopped bringing belugas into captivity in 1996. They research ones brought in before then, as well as those bred in captivity and ones that have been rescued and cannot be released. The aquarium still owns five belugas that are on loan outside of Vancouver.
 
“Some of our belugas are likely to come back,” said Dr. Nightingale. It is unknown how many there will be, however there is a possibility that belugas not owned by the aquarium could be brought in since they all must be non-breeding.
 
When the Park Board looked into bringing in a breeding ban two years ago, the aquarium said it wasn’t possible.
 
“Now, they’ve turned around, done a 180 and said this is what they want to do,” said Park Board Commissioner Stuart Mackinnon.
 
Plans to double the size of the beluga tank will continue to move forward as part of the aquarium’s $100-million expansion, despite announcing that it will phase out the public display of belugas by 2029.
 
“Why would they invest that money if they have plans to phase them out in 12 years?” wonders Mr. Mackinnon. “If that’s the case, why don’t they just phase them out now?”
 
The commissioner thinks the announcement may be in anticipation of the next Park Board meeting that will debate the captivity of cetaceans. At an earlier meeting on Jan. 24, the board decided to wait on recommending a plebiscite in order to look into other options.
 
“This isn’t them showing leadership,” said former Park Board chair Aaron Jasper. “I think this is finally, begrudgingly, coming to terms with the reality that as a society and at the political level, attitudes have shifted away from their breeding practices.”
 
Mr. Jasper had proposed in 2014, a breeding ban on whales in captivity, but the bylaw wasn’t passed.
 
“The lease is up in 2029,” said the former chair. “I think they know that going forward, no board in good conscience, would renew a lease with an aquarium that was still going full-steam ahead with their breeding program.”
 

15 February 2017

The problem of Dog Poo isn't going away

During the last civic election, Michael Wiebe and I campaigned on finding alternatives to dog owners putting plastic bags of waste into public garbage totes. After we were both elected we brought up this issue and were told that it would be discussed in the 'dog strategy'. This new staff report will be coming before the Park Board this year and I know both Michael and I will be keen to see what staff will be recommending. In the meantime, other municipalities in the region are moving ahead with their own strategies. Here is an article from Metro with an idea from North Van.

Dog-Waste-Only bins coming to a park near you

Mosquito Creek, Kings Mill Walk, and Lynnmouth Park will be the test sites for the pilot program, in an attempt to keep dog poop out of landfills.

By: Wanyee Li Metro Published on February 15, 2017  

More than 350,000 dogs poo in Metro Vancouver’s parks every day, according to the region’s website. Several cities are now installing dog-waste-only bins to ensure that waste goes where it belongs – in a sewage treatment facility and not the landfill.
North Vancouver is piloting a Dog-Waste-Only garbage program with designated waste bins in Mosquito Creek, Kings Mill Walk, and Lynnmouth Park. City crews will empty the bins once a week, according to the city’s website. 
The city will audit the waste bins at the end of 2017 and add more dog-waste-only bins if the program is successful. 
The City of Vancouver started a similar pilot program in the summer of 2016 and maintains dog-waste-only bins in Charleson Park, John Hendry Park, and Grimmett Park.
Surrey is trying a different approach, with a weekly dog-poo collection service for residents at $5 per week.
(c)  Metro Published on Tue Feb 14 2017


If you are interested in Vancouver's Dog strategy why not come out and share your views at one of the open houses:

People, Parks, and Dogs (Dog Strategy)
Park Board staff and Space 2 Place Landscape Architects are launching the second round of public consultation on the Park Board’s Dog strategy, consisting of small group meeting with stakeholders and two public open houses. Dates for open houses:
 
  • Wednesday, February 15, 5:30 – 8:30 pm at Langara Golf Course Clubhouse --- Rescheduled from Thursday, February 16.
  • Saturday, February 18, 1 – 4 pm at Kitsilano Community Centre
  • Monday, February 20, 5:30 – 8:30 pm at Wise Hall
  • Saturday, February 25, 1 – 4 pm at East Fraser Lands Showroom
  • Wednesday, March 1, 5:30 – 8:30 pm at VPL Central Branch
  • Saturday, March 4, 1 – 4 pm at PNE Hastings Room

31 January 2017

No More Cetaceans in Our Parks. Ever.

At the last Park Board meeting (23 January 2017), on a 4-3 vote, the Commissioners deferred a motion on asking City Council to hold a plebiscite (assent question) on keeping cetaceans at the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre. The motion to refer to staff was done for different reasons depending on the Commissioner who supported it. 

For Cmmr Evans it was to hear back from staff if there are alternatives to a plebiscite within our legal mandate. For Cmmr Wiebe it was to get more information on our relationship, contractually, with the Vancouver Aquarium. I'm not sure about Cmmr Shum as I don't recall her speaking. For me it was to be able to hear from the public. Our strange rules don't allow the public to speak at Park Board meetings, but they can at Park Board Committee meetings. The referral moves this item to the Committee where the public can express their views. 

The motion itself was interesting as Part A specifically named the Aquarium in the plebiscite question, rather than Vancouver Parks. This oversight could have the consequence of banning cetaceans at the Aquarium but not other places in our park system.

Part C of the motion asks the Park Board to "Write to the Vancouver Aquarium asking it consider not bringing cetaceans into the facility until after the results of the 2018 plebiscite are received" This, in my opinion, is a very weak part of the motion as it does very little toward what many have sought--a moratorium on importation of cetaceans from other Aquaria. It does not specifically ask them for a moratorium, but only to 'consider not bringing in' any cetaceans until 2018. 

I have been on record as opposed to cetaceans--in fact all aquatic mammals--in captivity since at least 2005 when I was first a candidate for local government in Vancouver. (I have actually opposed this since the 1970's when I watched the baby beluga die at the aquarium and saw the terrible conditions the otters, seals, and bears were in at the zoo.) At that time, and up until the recent past, my preference for a plebiscite has been based on the notion that we would have to fight to get a plebiscite passed. I am no longer sure that that is true. I believe the public has moved considerably on this issue and there may be another way to achieve our goal. 

If you go back on this blog to July 2010 you can see my comments on the plebiscite motion I brought forward to the Board then. Interestingly, it was the NPA along with Vision Vancouver who opposed my 2010 motion. Today the NPA have seemingly moved toward a vote, though they have flip/flopped numerous times. In 1996 they supported, in 2003 and 2004 they opposed. Again in 2010 they opposed and now they are supporting. 


Democracy can appear slow and awkward at times, but if we are to do this, we must do it right. I don't want another Board reversing (as happened in 2004) this decision. I want this to be settled once and for all. No more cetaceans in captivity in Vancouver parks. Ever.

27 January 2017

Seawall improvements under way in advance of summer season


Next week, the City of Vancouver begins construction to upgrade the seawall in South False Creek in order to enhance the safety and comfort of all users. The first section of seawall improvements will take place between Old Bridge Walk and Alder Bay Walk.
 
The seawall along South False Creek, from Cambie to Burrard Bridge, is the oldest section of Vancouver's Seaside Greenway, dating back to 1975.
 
“Getting around by walking, cycling or rolling (such as on a skateboard) is the best way to stay healthy,” says Lon LaClaire, Director of Transportation for the City of Vancouver. “Building and maintaining public spaces like the seawall that are welcoming, safe, and comfortable is one thing that we can do as a City to make those options more attractive to our residents.”
 
Starting next week the seawall will be fully closed just east of Granville Island from Old Bridge Walk to the Castings with a detour in place. The seawall will be fully reopened in early May for the summer season, when usage is highest.
 
Upgrades through Sutcliffe Park will include:
·         Widening the pathway to separate walking and cycling.
·         Installing new pathway lighting, seating and signage.
·         Improved landscaping to enhance the character of the area.
 
The seawall improvements are being made in alignment with the comprehensive neighbourhood planning program for South False Creek that will begin in 2017.
 
Council approved the seawall upgrades on May 4, 2016. Learn more about the project and see the designs at vancouver.ca/seawall.
 
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Media contact:
Corporate communications
604-871-6336

24 January 2017

Ending Cetaceans in Captivity--Doing it right.



Last night at the Park Board meeting I supported the motion to refer the cetaceans in captivity plebiscite motion to staff for a report back to the Committee. I did this because it is only at the Committee that members of the public can speak--a rule I oppose. The public should be able to speak to every Commissioner motion (these only come to Board meetings).

I still firmly believe in a plebiscite, but am willing to entertain other ideas to end the captivity of cetaceans in Vancouver parks sooner. It is through public process that ideas can be shared.

Shame on the opportunistic pundits/politicians who accuse me of changing my mind on this. I have been steadfast in my opposition to captivity since I began my political 'career'. I just happen to believe that we 'must not only do right, but must be seen to do right'. By listening to the public we can be seen to do right. This is the essence of democracy.