Marine mammals “in distress”, agency orders Marineland to repair water supply system
A months-long inspection of Marineland by Ontario’s animal welfare watchdog found marine mammals at the tourist attraction in distress due to poor water quality, the press has learned Canadian.
The inspection launched earlier this year by Animal Welfare Services is still ongoing, but on May 10, inspectors issued two orders to the park in Niagara Falls, Ont., To repair the water system in the swimming pools that house beluga whales, dolphins, walruses, lions and a killer whale.
Marineland appealed the order on May 18, denying the animals were in distress and noting that an unknown number of whale deaths in the park were unrelated to water issues.
In an affidavit prepared for the appeal, one of the animal welfare inspectors described the water problems in the park.
“Marine mammal life support systems at Marineland are in need of repair and parts have not been maintained,” wrote Alanna Goziaman.
Some details of the ongoing inspection were included in documents filed with the Animal Care Review Board, a quasi-judicial body of Courts Ontario that handles disputes and appeals in animal welfare cases.
Goziaman wrote in the affidavit, a copy of which was obtained by The Canadian Press, that the water quality testing equipment in marine mammal enclosures had not been calibrated or validated as necessary and that water quality sampling showed results that were “outside the minimum required parameters.”
Inspectors ordered Marineland to replace or repair “all broken, inoperative and / or faulty measuring devices, gauges, sensors and panels on marine mammal survival systems.”
The theme park was ordered to meet “water quality parameters” by May 17th.
In its appeal, Marineland said its marine mammals were all under veterinary care.
One of its vets, Sherry Davidson, wrote to Andrew Burns, an attorney who represents Marineland, saying the park “has no animals in immediate distress and the animals in care are stable.”
“Take corrective action”
“We are watching the animals and Marineland is taking corrective action,” Davidson wrote.
The park argued that the inspectors lacked the expertise to assess marine mammals, did not examine the animals, and therefore lacked jurisdiction to issue the orders.
The review board adjourned the case to June 8, but Marineland owner Marie Holer withdrew the appeal the day before.
Marineland did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
The affidavit includes a series of email exchanges between Burns and Mike Draper, a regional supervisor on the inspection team.
On May 9, Burns wrote to Draper that Marineland was not aware of any Ministry concerns. He said the review of the government’s water system, a 65-page report, was “actively and intentionally withheld” from us until May 5.
Park says whale deaths are unrelated
“You knew the inspectors had been particularly concerned about water quality for months,” Draper wrote to Burns.
“These concerns were first identified in February and an order was issued regarding coliform testing along with a letter of non-compliance regarding low pH.”
Burns also addressed the issue of whale deaths in the park.
“None of the whale deaths have been determined to be related in any way to water problems,” Burns wrote to Draper. “It is unequivocal fact. Each death has undergone a thorough medical examination and a full autopsy as required by law.”
Marineland did not specify in the documents how many whales died. The province and Marineland did not respond to questions about the deaths.