A special meeting of the park board is scheduled for this Thursday evening to determine the fate of porpoises, dolphins and whales which have long been held captive at the Vancouver Aquarium, much to the dismay of environmentalists who want the Aquarium to stop keeping these large mammals in captivity for public display.

Earlier this week, representatives for both sides of the issue made impassioned pleas to the park board’s seven members.

Local residents, members of the Aquarium’s staff, as well as experts on sea life have all weighed in with their opinions as to whether or not it is cruel to continue to have cetaceans in captivity at Stanley Park.

There are a number of factors which the park board, led by Constance Barnes, must consider in making their decision.

These include whether or not the Aquarium would continue to be allowed to bring wild cetaceans who have become distressed or injured to the facility and whether all cetacean programs at the Aquarium should be phased out that involve having animals such as dolphins and whales perform for public exhibition.

Many who have testified before park board members are demanding an end to programs at the Aquarium that have no conservation value in addition to preventing Aquarium officials from loaning out their current whales for breeding purposes to other facilities which use them for performance purposes such as SeaWorld.

Officials at the Vancouver Aquarium have already voiced their objection to any attempts to prevent them from continuing to host beluga whales at the center, stating that climate change is making the research and study of the cetacean population now more important and vital than ever before. The Vancouver Board of Trade has expressed concern that eliminating cetaceans in captivity at the Aquarium would decrease sales and tax revenues.