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Canada passes 'Free Willy' ban, making it illegal to hold dolphins, whales in captivity

Posted at 8:50 AM, Jun 11, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-11 11:50:57-04

Canada is making strides to help protect marine life.

The country's House of Commons passed a bill Monday that makes it illegal to keep a whale, dolphin or porpoise in captivity.

Bill S-203, nicknamed the "Free Willy" bill after the iconic 1993 movie that portrayed a boy freeing an Orca whale from an amusement park, applies to those who own or have custody or control of a cetacean in captivity. People who breed or impregnate a cetacean or possess/seek to obtain reproductive materials of cetaceans, including sperm or an embryo, were also included in the bill.

Offenders can be fined up to $200,000.

The Ending the Captivity of Whales and Dolphins Act makes exceptions for cetaceans that are rescued or are in rehabilitation and for researchers who obtain a license from the government.

"A person may move a live cetacean from its immediate vicinity when the cetacean is injured or in distress and is in need of assistance," the bill states.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Monday that the country will ban single-use plastics, such as bags and straws, as early as 2021, according to The Associated Press.

The specific items to be banned will be determined based on a scientific review, Trudeau said.

Canada drew inspiration from the European Union's decision in March to impose a ban on single-use plastics to counter pollution in waterways and fields, Trudeau said.

"Many other countries are doing that and Canada will be one of them," Trudeau said. "This is a big step but we know can do this for 2021."