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‘Free Willy’ bill bans holding dolphins, whales and porpoises in captivity in Canada


Family looking at a killer whale in captivity. (benedek/Getty Images)

There’s some fin-tastic news for dolphins, whales and porpoises in Canada.

The country has banned keeping these aquatic mammals in captivity with a new bill passed Monday by the House of Commons that’s been dubbed the “Free Willy” bill. The nickname, of course, is thanks to the 1993 film about a boy who befriends and later frees an orca held in a theme park.

The bill, first introduced in 2015, will also outlaw using dolphins, whales and porpoises — collectively called cetaceans — in entertainment performances unless authorities grant a special license. Anyone caught breaking the law can be fined up to $200,000 in Canadian dollars, which is about $150,000 in U.S. currency.

A scene from the movie "Free Willy."
A scene from the movie "Free Willy." (Handout)

“This is truly an historic victory,” the Canadian division of the Humane Society International tweeted Monday.

Called the Ending the Captivity of Whales and Dolphins Act, the bill also makes it illegal to breed cetaceans, as well as import and expert them from the country.

These type of aquatic animals that are already in captivity will be grandfathered in and allowed to remain at marine parks they were already in at the time the new rules go into effect.

The bill also allows for keeping dolphins, whales and porpoises in captivity “for the purpose of providing it with assistance or care or to rehabilitate it following an injury or another state of distress,” or if it’s “in the best interests of the cetacean’s welfare pursuant to a licence issued by the Lieutenant Governor in Council of a province or by such other person or authority.”