Canada passes ‘Free Willy’ ban, making it illegal to hold dolphins, whales in captivity

MarkMalleson/iStock
MarkMalleson/iStock

(OTTAWA, Ontario) — Canada is making strides to help protect marine life.

The country’s House of Commons passed a bill Monday that makes it illegal to keep a whale, dolphin or porpoise in captivity.

Bill S-203, nicknamed the “Free Willy” bill after the iconic 1993 movie that portrayed a boy freeing an Orca whale from an amusement park, applies to those who own or have custody or control of a cetacean in captivity. People who breed or impregnate a cetacean or possess/seek to obtain reproductive materials of cetaceans, including sperm or an embryo, were also included in the bill.

Offenders can be fined up to $200,000.

The Ending the Captivity of Whales and Dolphins Act makes exceptions for cetaceans that are rescued or are in rehabilitation and for researchers who obtain a license from the government.

“A person may move a live cetacean from its immediate vicinity when the cetacean is injured or in distress and is in need of assistance,” the bill states.

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