Canada will no longer allow whales, dolphins and porpoises to be grown and kept in captivity for amusement purposes in a large victory for animal rights advocates.

The Ending Whales and Dolphins Captivity Act, adopted by the Parliament of Canada on Monday, will guarantee that cetaceans — or marine mammals — will no longer be subjected to the pain of containment in underwater amusement centers that animal rights protesters have described as a scheme of animal abuse.

The new law also prevents marine animals from being subjected to captive breeding, the import-export market, live catches and also forbids reproductive possession.

The proposal does, however, contain some significant exceptions while enabling marine mammals already kept to stay in captivity, including those saved, to be rehabilitated from wounds, or to be subject to restricted scientific research. It will allow aquariums, parks and zoos to maintain their captive performing cetaceans, but they can no longer substitute them.

Beluga whale Qila leaps out of the water at the Vancouver Aquarium in Vancouver, B.C.
Beluga whale Qila leaps out of the water at the Vancouver Aquarium in Vancouver, B.C. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

The proposal, tabled by Nova Scotia’s former Sen. Wilfred Moore in 2010, welcomed the law’s adoption in a declaration from the International / Canada Humane Society. The former senator of the Liberal Party said:

“We have a moral obligation to phase out the capture and retention of animals for profit and entertainment. Canadians are calling upon us to do better—and we have listened.”

Experts asserted that while in captivity, whales and dolphins experience tremendous psychological and physical pain, including chronic health issues, abnormal behavior, extended confinement and severe boredom, and elevated infant mortality.

Marineland in Niagara Falls and the Vancouver Aquarium are the two primary installations affected by the law. Marineland maintains in captivity about 61 cetaceans, including “55 beluga whales, five bottlenose dolphins, and one orca,” according to CBC.

SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, based in the United States, announced an end to the reproduction of captive killer dolphins in 2016 and promised instead to change its focus to marine animal rescue activities. The company has SeaWorld parks in California, Florida, and Texas.

Almost 60 orcas are held in captivity worldwide at various parks and aquariums, with about a third of those orcas living in the U.S.—and all but one are captives at SeaWorld Parks in Orlando, San Diego, and San Antonio, National Geographic reports.