03/23/2015 02:24 EDT | Updated 03/23/2015 02:59 EDT

Ontario To End Killer Whales In Captivity, Breeding Of Orcas

A killer whale raises its head out of the water Saturday, Feb. 27, 2010, during the first show since an orca killed a trainer at the SeaWorld theme park in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack, Pool)

After many years of protests by advocate groups and animal lovers, the Government of Ontario is attempting to end the acquisition and breeding of orcas in the province.

The Toronto Star is reporting that the proposed legislation seeks to amend the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, and would include a fine of up to $60,000 and/or two years in prison on the first conviction for either breeding or buying and selling killer whales. If passed, the new rules would be effective immediately upon the amendment's acceptance; Naqvi is hopeful the amendment would be in place by summer 2015.

"Today’s announcement is about ensuring that Ontario has the best standards of care possible for marine mammals. That is what Ontarians expect and these animals deserve," Community Safety Minister Yasir Naqvi declared Monday.

Of course, one business in Canada is most impacted by this news, and that's animal park Marineland, which operates out of Niagara Falls. The Toronto Star famously conducted an investigation into the conditions of the park and the animals living there. The paper claims it found some allegedly horrific situations involving animal health and environments, but Marineland has denied all allegations.

In terms of this amendment, Marineland would not be affected by the proposed prohibitions and would be able to operate as normal. But if this should this become hard-and-fast law, Marineland would not be permitted to bring any more orcas into the province, or breed any at the park. As it stands now, only one orca, Kiska, remains at Marineland; he is the only captive killer whale in Canada.

The proposed changes would also make it mandatory that any facilities with marine mammals have to establish animal welfare committees and have a qualified marine mammal veterinarian available at all times.

"There were some concerns about whether we have effective standards of care for marine mammals in Ontario," Naqvi said. "We also made a determination that orcas are an extraordinary animal given their size, given the manner in which they live. They exist in pods numbering five to 30. They dive about 500 feet to get food. We feel strongly that it is difficult to develop a suitable habitat for an animal of that magnitude."

Smaller marine mammals, like beluga whales for example, would still be allowed in captivity under this amendment.

The final regulations are still up for debate. If they pass, Ontario would be the first province in Canada to set specific guidelines for marine mammal care.

In related news, SeaWorld park in the United States is starting a new advertising campaign in the wake of declining revenue and attendance that followed the release of highly critical documentary "Blackfish."

The campaign focuses on the marine-life theme park's efforts at caring for animals in captivity and in the wild.

Last year, SeaWorld's revenue declined 3 per cent from the previous year. Its chief executive resigned, and the company announced plans to build larger environments for its marine mammals.

With files from The Associated Press


Photo gallery Killer Whale Research Aided By Drones See Gallery