(Photo submitted by Claudia De Los Santos in Cowichan Bay, April 2015)

After four years of deliberations, the Canadian government has officially passed the Ending the Captivity of Whales and Dolphins Act, or Bill S-203 on Monday, June 10th.

The bill includes amendments to the Criminal Code, the Fisheries Act, and the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act.

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These amendments make it illegal to take and keep cetaceans (whales and dolphins) in captivity, and requires permits for the import and export of cetaceans in Canada.

Exceptions include allowing rescue organizations to help injured cetaceans, as long as the animals are released once they’re healthy again.

Whales and dolphins that are currently in captivity and would not survive in the wild are grandfathered in, and are therefore also exempt from the new bill.

“Bill S-203 not only bans the capture and confinement of whales and dolphins, it also criminalizes the breeding of captive cetaceans—a North American first,” says Dr. Sara Dubois, BC SPCA’s chief scientific officer.

It was first introduced in 2015 by retired Senator Wilfred Moore, Green Party leader Elizabeth May, and Humane Canada, and has since undergone more study than any other bill in recent history, according to BC SPCA.

Click here to read the full contents of Bill S-203.