Canada bans keeping whales and dolphins in captivity with ‘Free Willy’ bill

After years of scrutiny on marine parks — amplified by films like “Blackfish” — Canada has passed a bill that increases regulation on its most controversial marine park.

Canada’s House of Commons has passed the Ending the Captivity of Whales and Dolphins Act, known colloquially as the “Free Willy” bill, years after its introduction in December 2015.

It will ban keeping whales, dolphins or porpoises in captivity, as well as ban them from performing for entertainment. Lawbreakers will be fined over $150,000.

The bill will also prohibit the import and export of these animals, though it will permit cetaceans who are already in captivity to be kept by their keepers. They can also be kept captive for rehabilitative or scientific purposes.

“These intelligent, social mammals will now get to live where they belong — in the ocean,” Canada’s Green Party wrote in a statement on Twitter.

Marineland, located in Niagara Falls, is Canada’s last marine park to keep these animals in captivity — and says that it remains unaffected by the passing of this bill, despite prior opposition to the bill, CBC reports.

“Bill S-203 does not impair the operations of Marineland,” it said in a statement to the broadcaster. “Marineland will continue to provide world-class care to all of its animals.”

Follow Joshua Bote on Twitter: @joshua_bote

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