Government of Canada announces new policies that support ending the captivity of whales, dolphins, and porpoises

News release

May 17, 2021                                      

Ottawa, ON - Ending the captivity of whales, dolphins and porpoises matters to Canadians and is a priority for the Government of Canada.

To this end, the Honourable Bernadette Jordan, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans, and the Canadian Coast Guard, announced today a new suite of policies to support provisions that ban the breeding and captivity of whales, dolphins, and porpoises.

These policies, which result from the June 2019 amendments made to the Criminal Code and Fisheries Act, provide the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard with guidance for issuing authorizations related to:

  • taking a whale, dolphin or porpoise into captivity;
  • importing or exporting living whales, dolphins, or porpoises, as well as their reproductive materials;
  • undertaking scientific research involving whales, dolphins, or porpoises in captivity, or relating to their potential reproduction; and
  • keeping a whale, dolphin, or porpoise in captivity for their health and well-being.

DFO held a 90-day online public consultation on the draft policies from August to November 2020 and the results of that consultation were used to clarify and complete the policies where relevant and/or possible.

After much feedback, we have strengthened the final policies to ensure that animal well-being is the priority. The Government of Canada’s final policies place animal welfare at the forefront by, among other things:

  • adding greater specificities in addressing the best interest of the cetacean;
  • expanding facility accreditation to increase the ability for animal sanctuaries to apply.

The Government of Canada will continue to only authorize export permits that meet the expanded criteria and keep the animals best interest as the main priority.


Whales, dolphins, and porpoises are wild animals that belong in the wild. Canadians do not want to see these sentient creatures behind glass for their entertainment, and over the past three years our government has worked to amend policies and legislation to end these practices in Canada. Thank you to all the Canadians who participated in our online consultation process to inform and strengthen our actions going forward. Through these amendments, as well as our protective measures and ongoing marine conservation work, we will ensure that marine mammals can live safe and free in Canadian waters.”    

The Honourable Bernadette Jordan, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard

Quick facts

  • Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) is responsible for the conservation and protection of Canada's marine resources, including wild marine mammals, as set out in the Marine Mammal Regulations. We achieve this through regulation, research, education, policies, and management plans.

  • DFO has not issued a permit to capture a cetacean from the wild for the purposes of public display since the early 1990s. 

Associated links


Jane Deeks
Press Secretary 
Office of the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard

Media Relations
Fisheries and Oceans Canada 

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