Debate about cetaceans at Vancouver Aquarium to continue for 2nd night

So many people turned up to speak about the future of cetaceans at the Vancouver Aquarium at a special city park board meeting last night that a second meeting had to be scheduled for Thursday.

Dozens of people signed up to speak on Wednesday night and some had to wait outside the packed room. After many didn't get the chance to speak, the board decided to continue with a second meeting.

Aquarium officials are asking the Vancouver Park Board to consider four options about the future of whales and belugas at the Stanley Park facility:

- Calling for a non-binding, city-wide plebiscite on the issue (likely during the 2018 municipal election.)

- Accepting the aquarium's plans to expand the beluga pool and bring whales back until 2029 — but without breeding.

- Changing the parks control bylaws.

- Maintaining the status quo.

Beluga deaths

Whales in captivity at the aquarium has long been a contentious issue in the city, but the deaths of two beluga whales last fall brought the debate to a tipping point.

Aurora and Qila — mother and calf — died within nine days of another in November. The cause of their deaths hasn't been determined, but aquarium officials said a toxin could be to blame.

In February, the aquarium announced plans to bring belugas back until 2029. The decision about cetaceans ultimately lies with Vancouver Park Board members, as they hold the lease for the facility.

CEO John Nightingale said Wednesday that the decision-making process around cetaceans has been tough on staff.

"We all want to do what is the right thing for the animals, nature and community in Vancouver," he told the board.

With files from CBC's Brenna Rose