Do Montrealers really
want another aquarium?

The public is more sensitized to the needs of species held captive in man-made facilities

By Georges Dupras

December 7, 2022

Do you ever get the feeling that our civic leaders have lost touch with the people? Have our elected representatives been so blinded by the smoke and mirror presentations offered by some developers that their environmental responsibilities are allocated to those mastered in creative writing?

The authors of Royalmount have turned a deaf ear to the many who see the downside of this mega project. Situated in the Town of Mount Royal, south of the Montreal borough of Saint-Laurent, and bordered by the Metropolitan and Décarie expressways, this labyrinth will not only increase congestion and pollution but will almost certainly signal the death of the Rockland Centre and badly impact the Marché Central. As if this throwback to a rapidly changing retail world wasn’t enough, we are now told that the promoters are planning something equally antiquated – I’m referring to the inclusion of an aquarium.

… marine research has shown that fish recognize boundaries and suffer in the same manner as cetaceans and whales when caught.

Over the past decades, aquariums around the world have been closing, and those still open are facing increasing difficulties in sustaining ticket sales and attracting advertisers. The general public has become more sensitized to the needs of those species held captive in man-made facilities. Small whales in these aquariums have perished due to work-to-rule issues, and sharks have been dispatched by means of a mallet. Today, marine research has shown that fish recognize boundaries and suffer in the same manner as cetaceans and whales when caught.

The Carbonleo group argues that this project will encourage a greener way of life for all but fails to say how.

The fact remains that the true threats to marine ecosystems are overfishing and pollution. Incarcerating sentient beings in unnatural surroundings while they slowly succumb to aberrant behavioural patterns will do nothing to reverse present trends.

I encourage readers to write to the Carbonleo group and ask them to re-think their plans for an aquarium or any kind of animal display.

‘Incarcerating sentient beings in unnatural surroundings while they slowly succumb to aberrant behavioural patterns will do nothing to reverse present trends [threats to marine ecosystems].’

Is this aquarium merely another flavour of the day, no different than the ill-conceived Portuguese bullfighting of a few years back or rodeos here in Montreal? Are we simply replacing the plight of carriage horses on the streets of Montreal, giving another reason for people to wonder just whom our elected officials represent?

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of or its publishers.

Feature image: Amrl30, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

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Georges Dupras

Georges R. Dupras has advocated for animals for over fifty years. A member of the International Association for Bear Research and Management (IBA), a Director of the Animal Alliance of Canada (AAC), Quebec Representative of Zoocheck Canada and past Board member of the Canadian SPCA, he worked on the original Save the Seal campaign in 1966 that culminated in the founding of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) in 1969. Georges Dupras has published two books, Values in Conflict and the eBook Ethics, a Human Condition, and currently lives in Montreal, Canada.

There are 9 comments

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  1. Doris Potter

    To include an aquarium at the Royalmount Mega-Mall is a very bad idea.

    There are great psychological and physical tolls inflicted on captive animals. Many of us remember the tragedy of the two dolphins in the Montreal Aquarium who starved to death during a worker’s strike.

    This is a new era where the whole concept of keeping animals in captivity for commercial reasons has fallen out of favour. Town of Mount Royal needs to catch up with the times and prevent the construction of this aquarium.

    It will only bring unfavourable attention to the city.

  2. Jean Le Marquand

    No need to repeat here the much documented horrific cases of premature deaths of whales and dolphins in captivity; if this plan for an aquarium goes through, there will be more animals suffering in stressful conditions and more
    bad press. This is a giant step backwards!

  3. Karen

    Mr Dupras makes excellent points and I agree with him entirely.
    Non-human animals are not here to entertain us or to simply provide an interesting backdrop to our lives. They are sentient beings who do poorly in unnatural environments. One only needs to watch the film ‘Blackfish’ to understand the brutal trade of stealing orcas from their natural habitat and selling them off to one of the many aquariums around the world where they will languish and suffer for years until their death. There are plenty of videos available online showing orcas raised and confined in small tanks, trained to perform for human entertainment. Confinement in tanks is cruel for all species of fish, both big and small.
    I have personally learned much more about animals, including fish, in books and videos of them thriving in their natural habitats, than I ever did at a zoo or aquarium. Yes, like many of us in my younger years I paid for tickets and visited these places. Once I came to understand how cruel they are for these beings I stopped going. I did not want to contribute to businesses that exploit animals for profit.
    The Carbonleo group would be wise to educate themselves on the impacts and negative associations that such an aquarium would have on their project. Such installations have become symbols of animal cruelty and exploitation around the world, and I am sure that the Town of Mount Royal would much prefer to avoid the negative attention such an aquarium would attract to their peaceful community.

  4. Diane Marcotte

    “A proposed Aquarium. Really?
    We DO NOT need to watch captive stressed-out animals that are slowly going insane!
    This is sheer cruelty! Even the chemicals needed to keep the tanks clean cause them physical distress. We must not inflict this on these animals. Please reconsider – the animals will thank you; caring humans will also thank you.”

    Diane Marcotte

  5. Sinikka Crosland

    More sentient beings in captivity, existing in an artificial environment for the purpose of attracting attention, is not a progressive step forward. This kind of thinking is antiquated and will not impress environmentally-conscious and ethically-minded members of the community. Think it through, Carbonleo!

  6. Rob Laidlaw

    One of the overlooked facts about most aquarium projects is the fact that they bring with them a very high carbon footprint, far greater than traditional zoos housing terrestrial animals. They are resource and energy intense (not particularly surprising given the fact that they house aquatic animals that require complicated technological life support systems) and are not particularly in line with any project that claims to be “green.”

    There are also a broad range of other issues associated with aquariums including, of course, animal welfare. Behavioural scientists and field biologists have in recent years produced a vast amount of information about the complex, dynamic lives of fishes, as well as their often advanced cognitive, emotional and social capabilities. Their efforts are showing that, if we care, there needs to be rethink about fish and fish captivity.

  7. D Laskaris

    As someone who does not live in Montreal, I can say that this would be one attraction that does not attract me. I visit for the charm of Old Montreal, to immerse myself in French culture, for the Montreal Jazz Festival, for Juste Pour Rire. An aquarium is what I expect for Toronto, a city that tries hard to attract visitors; it seems beneath Montreal to stoop to that level.

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