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Photo Credit: Dean Sewell / World Animal Protection

The Canadian government has set a precedent for protecting cetaceans with a recent bill enforcing animal welfare in the entertainment industry. It reflects the growing concern over animal cruelty and reducing environmental impact as a measure of good business. Hopefully the new law will serve as a paragon for other industries who currently eschew the virtues of investing in preservation for the future.

Ben Pearson is Senior Campaign Manager at World Animal Protection Australia, we asked him to examine the implications of Canada’s legal precendent to protect animal welfare in the entertainment industry, and the value of embracing these laws in other countries.

What Canada’s bill to protect cetaceans means for animal welfare legislation?

If you grew up in Australia, chances are that you’ve been to Sea World on the Gold Coast. And if you’ve been to Sea World, chances are that you’ve seen the dolphin show. For many families, watching a dolphin show has been part of the magic of school holidays. 

But there’s nothing magic about the cruelty to dolphins and other marine animals that happens at Sea World in the name of entertainment.

Sea World is a relic of history. It opened its doors in 1971 in an Australia very different from today. Colour TV, credit cards and McDonalds were yet to be introduced, smoking was commonplace and car seatbelts weren’t yet mandatory.

In the intervening years a lot has changed, including community attitudes to animal welfare.

Canada recently introduced groundbreaking new laws to ban the trade, breeding and display of cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) for entertainment. The passing of Bill S-203 will amend the Criminal Code, with fines up to $200,000 for breaking the law. This is a significant move, reflecting the immense suffering whales, dolphins and porpoises experience when kept in captivity for entertainment. 

It is also a huge win for animal lovers, who have been campaigning for the legislation for years. Jurisdictions around the world are responding to the science by passing laws to ban or significantly restrict the captive display of marine mammals including Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Costa Rica, India, Luxembourg, Norway, Switzerland, UK, and now Canada.

However, Bill S-203 does make an exception for animals currently captive and those needing care or rehabilitation. This is just one example of the complexity surrounding animal welfare legislation. For instance, there are no national laws on animal welfare in Australia – the states and territories are responsible for the legislation in their own jurisdiction. This means there’s no uniformity and some states are behind others. 

The Canadian government acknowledged that a shift in public perception about animal captivity played a factor in the new law. This change in attitudes has come from an increased scientific understanding of marine mammals, helping to educate the public about the issues surrounding keeping them in captivity. 

World Animal Protection’s recent report, Case Against Marine Mammals in Captivity, jointly published with the Animal Welfare Institute, delved into the scientific and ethical arguments for banning marine mammal captivity. These kinds of studies have led to the acceptability of keeping animals in captivity for entertainment to decline. 

Back in 1986, Former NSW Premier Bob Carr introduced the Marine Mammals Protection Bill to protect marine mammals, while he was the environment and planning minister. Earlier this year, over 30 years after the legislation passed, the last captive dolphin venue in NSW, the Dolphin Marine Conservation Park in Coffs Harbour, announced it will end its dolphin breeding program.

This leaves Sea World on the Gold Coast as the only venue in Australia that still breeds dolphins in captivity. There are currently 30+ dolphins at Sea World, most of which were born and bred there. This is out of step with community attitudes, and global trends away from keeping dolphin’s captive for entertainment. 

The end of captive dolphin breeding in NSW shows that change is possible and signals a shift in public perception in Australia. The introduction of nationwide laws in Canada is evidence that the voices of the people are being heard by governments. Globally, we have seen a greater awareness of animal welfare issues, but we need to keep speaking out to create lasting change. 

World Animal Protection is now calling on the Queensland Government to ban breeding at Sea World and begin work on a sea sanctuary for the dolphins who cannot be released into the wild. We’re asking the public to act now by signing the petition on our website

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In recognition of the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, Earth Day Network (EDN), the U.S. Department of State’s Eco-Capitals Forum, and the Wilson Center are launching Earth Challenge 2020 (EC2020)—a global citizen science initiative that will demonstrate how small digital acts of science can add up to global change.

Using mobile technology and an open source citizen science data infrastructure, EC2020 will get a pulse on our environment and empower people around the world to help monitor and improve environmental and human health. EC2020 mobilizes the existing citizen science community while building capacity for individuals around the globe to collaboratively address the world’s most pressing challenges.

As a global call to action, Earth Challenge 2020 can become a nexus for collecting and harmonizing one billion data points in any research areas that impact environmental and human health. At the same time, the “core” research questions identified through a public call offering practical opportunities for communities to collaborate on.

The dual objectives of the challenge support an integrated strategy for engagement and particpation.

  • Increase the amount of open and interoperable citizen science data to help answer more complex, global questions than any dataset could address alone.
  • Through a public call to action, volunteers will use the Earth Challenge 2020 application, mobile app framework, and hardware tools to collect new data. Information will be used to create a data catalogue and API-enabled data integration platform to facilitate discovery and access of existing citizen science information.

Taking a creative approach to discovery and engagement there will also be a series of videos by Wilson NOW available on the platform. Filmed in Washington the series features brief, incisive conversations with leading experts that make sense of today’s headlines and the forces behind them.

In the first Wilson NOW, John Milewski, speaks with Kathleen Rogers, President of Earth Day Network, and The Wilson Center’s Alison Parker about; how the campaign will engage millions of global citizens to aggregate and collect more than one billion data points from areas including air quality, water quality, biodiversity, pollution, and human health. 

In the subsequent Wilson NOW, John Milewski discusses the potential of citizen science initiatives with Landon Van Dyke, Senior Advisor at the U.S. Department of State, and Anne Bowser, The Wilson Center’s Director of Innovation.

Follow the Earth Challenge 2020 Community @EarthDayNetwork, @Earth_Challenge, and @WilsonsSTIP

BEJournal will be supporting EC2020 and you can contribute story ideas or follow us @EarthEndeavours

Our world is made up of more water than land, much of which is yet to be explored and its secrets revealed. At its depths lie a sense of beauty and calm witnessed by few. This rich stillness is found beyond human reach, and artfully distilled in the images of award-winning underwater photographer, Christian Vizl in his new book, Silent Kingdom: A World Beneath the Waves (Earth Aware Editions, 2019, $50.00).

Photographer Christian Vizl explores a world beneath the waves in Silent Kingdom.

The photos are purposefuly devoid of color, remnicient of a Japanese ink painting, reflecting dappled light and dulcet tones. Seen in black-and-white, water imparts a story, and its magic is captivating.

Through a range of undersea scenes and moods—from the ferocity of sharks to the playful dance of dolphins—Vizl turns aquatic creatures and marine seascapes into visions of sublime grace and beauty suspended in time and space. With each turn of the page, venture deeper into the one realm in which humans do not reign and discover an unforgettable world that few have ever seen.

Christian’s minimalist style evokes a deep reverence for nature. © Christian Vizil

Though the ocean covers over 70 percent of planet Earth, over 80 percent of that vast underwater wilderness remains unexplored. As the impact of human activity reaches these once-untouched regions, it is more important than ever to acknowledge both the preciousness of our seas and the necessity of protecting one of Earth’s last truly wild frontiers. Silent Kingdom is an ode to the beauty of the ocean and the magnificent creatures that inhabit it as well as a call to action to preserve our planet’s fragile underwater world.


Christian Vizl was born in Mexico City and has been a photographer for three decades. He has won dozens of professional photography awards, including Wildlife Photographer of the Year and International Photographer of the Year, and his images have been published in numerous publications, including National Geographic and Ocean Geographic.

Dr. Sylvia A. Earle is president and chairman of Mission Blue. She has been called “Her Deepness” by the New Yorker and the New York Times, named a Living Legend by the Library of Congress, and chosen as Time magazine’s first “hero for the planet.” She is an oceanographer, explorer, author, and lecturer.

Earth Aware Editions is committed to broadening awareness and understanding the unique challenges of our time through powerful and provocative publications. From climate change and conservation to the accelerating loss of diversity in our planet’s species and cultures, the continued erosion of our biosphere and ethnosphere cannot be ignored.

Gifts Inspired by the Garden

by Inga Yandell Inspiration

The garden can be a sanctuary of peace and inspiration for those who cultivate its charms—but not everyone is born with green thumbs! If you lack the space or the skill to nurture a garden, there are other ways to enjoy natures fragrance, colours and positive influence. Make-up inspired by the garden to bring joy […]

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Issue 47 A Tribute To Trees

by Inga Yandell Featured

Attempting to acknowledge all that makes trees amazing is impossible—humans often forget this—as trees are fairly ubiquitous, at least for now that is! But with the help of some tree-loving stewards and ambassadors, we reveal hidden secrets which make trees more than just a feature on the landscape!

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