Marineland banned a number of people from its premises, some of whom have never visited Niagara Falls, Ontario, a tourist attraction, days before the facility opened for the season.
A lawyer, a filmmaker and a scientist are among those who received a trespassing notice, all of which are written the same except for the names.
The notices state that recipients “have no right to enter the property known as Marineland of Canada, Inc” and may not enter the property “at any time for any reason.”
The notice states that any recipient who enters the property may be charged under the Trespass to Property Act and could be fined $2,000 if convicted. The documents are signed by the owner Marie Holer.
Marineland, which opened the season on Saturday, did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Miranda Desa, a lawyer for the activist organization Last Chance for Animals, said she received the notice on Tuesday. That notice said the ban applied not just to Desa, but to the entire organization, “its employees, volunteers, representatives, agents, directors and affiliates.”
“The first thing that comes to mind is ‘what are they hiding?'” she said. “I helped Last Chance for Animals file a lawsuit against Marineland last fall.”
Last year, Last Chance for Animals sent an investigator to Marineland to see what was going on inside the park. The organization sent videos as part of a complaint to Niagara Regional Police in September 2021 and its investigator provided a statement to police a month later. In December 2021, Niagara Regional Police charged Marineland with allegedly using dolphins and whales for entertainment, a charge the tourist attraction denies.
Marineland blamed the accusation on “ideologically motivated activists” who filed a complaint with the police. Marineland made its fourth court appearance this week. The case was adjourned until June.
In March, police contacted Last Chance for Animals to request more photos and videos, Desa said. “I think they’re trying to prevent LCA from attending and seeing what’s going on,” she said of the Marineland ban.
Desa said members of the organization will abide by the trespass notice, noting they have no real recourse to fight the ban. “There are many good ways to keep advocating,” she said.
Rob Laidlaw, executive director of animal rights organization Zoocheck, said he received the notice earlier this week. “It sounds silly, they can’t really ban everyone,” he said. Laidlaw said he received a similar trespassing notice several years ago.
“I have no intention of going back, it’s not necessary,” he said.
Others who received the trespassing notice were mystified, including three advisers from the Whale Sanctuary Project, a proposed coastal refuge in Nova Scotia for whales once kept in marine parks. “I have nothing to do with Marineland,” laughed documentary filmmaker Harry Rabin. “It’s really weird.”
He suspects the notice he received could be related to his upcoming documentary Savage’s Cryabout the 100 whales that were captured and kept in Russian waters and destined for marine parks around the world.
“I wasn’t really paying attention to them, we were doing our thing, but they’ve awakened a sleeping giant now,” he said.
Sara Dubois, scientific director of the British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, thinks it must be her relationship as an adviser to the Whale Sanctuary Project that landed her on the list.
“I honestly thought it was spam,” she said. “I’ve never had any contact with Marineland, I’ve never visited Marineland, I’ve never spoken publicly about Marineland until now.”
A third adviser to the sanctuary project, Liv Baker, who lives in New York, also said she had never visited or discussed the park before.
“It’s weird,” said Baker, a professor in the animal behavior and conservation program at Hunter College, “and random.”
Charles Vinick, executive director of the Whale Sanctuary Project, said he and a handful of advisers received the notices, but no other employees. “It’s strange,” he said.
Marineland and the sanctuary project had previously had discussions about the potential transfer of some whales at one point, but those discussions ended in December when Marineland released a report alleging the sanctuary’s waters were too polluted.
“We look forward to talking to Marineland in the future,” Vinick said.