Marineland charged, accused of violating 'Free Willy' bill banning the use of captive whales and dolphins for entertainment

Posted at 2:09 PM, Dec 13, 2021

NIAGARA FALLS, ON (WKBW) — Charges have been filed against Marineland in connection to the use of dolphins and whales for entertainment purposes earlier this year, the Niagara Regional Police Service announced on Monday.

According to police, detectives launched an investigation into the Niagara Falls theme park in October into allegations that captive dolphins and whales were being used. It found the animals had been used for entertainment at the park without authorization in August.

The law Marineland is accused of violating is the result of the so-called "Free Willy" bill, passed in Canada in 2019. The law bans the keeping of whales, dolphins and porpoises in captivity for entertainment. At the time of the bill's passing, Marineland released a statement indicating it was an exception to the bill and would continue to stay open.

Parliament sought to include exemptions to what is otherwise a criminal act. Doing so acknowledged Marineland’s role as a custodian for the cetacean populations that call Marineland home, and specifically acknowledged that Marineland Canada’s actions are not inherently animal cruelty.
-Marineland, June 2019

Marineland is now closed for the season. Its representatives will answer to the charges in court in February.