Animal lovers everywhere have been protesting for years in hopes that the marine animals trapped in unbearably small tanks would be able to swim free once again. And all the activism has paid off—at least in Canada.
This week, the Canadian Parliament passed the Ending the Captivity of Whales and Dolphins Act—also known as the “Free Willy” bill after the beloved 1993 movie—which makes holding whales, dolphins, porpoises, and other cetaceans captive punishable by fines up to $150,000.
The bill—which is expected to go into law—also bans anyone from using the animals for entertainment purposes, importing or exporting them, breeding or impregnating them, or possessing or seeking to obtain reproductive materials of cetaceans. Now the only way animals can be kept in captivity is if they’re being rescued, being rehabilitated, licensed for scientific research, or if it’s in the animal’s best interest.
As for the whales and dolphins already in captivity—including the 60 animals currently at Marineland and the Vancouver Aquarium in Canada—they’re unfortunately “grandfathered” into the bill, meaning the theme parks can keep the animals they already own. With that being said, they’re not allowed to use them in a show or performance and the hope is that instead of making them live out the rest of their lives in those tanks, they’ll instead be moved to sanctuaries.
Even though it took more than three years to pass this bill due to delays and obstructions, mankind is no longer allowed to take advantage of these creatures in any way. Hopefully with the momentous support the bill has gained throughout Canada and around the world with thousands of #EmptyTheTanks tweets used across social media in celebration, the U.S. will follow suit. Watch your back, SeaWorld: You’re next.