A beluga whale with their head out of water.

Marineland Under Investigation After 17 Whales Die



Marineland, a Niagara Falls tourist attraction, is under investigation by Ontario’s Animal Welfare Services after 17 beluga whales died in its care since 2019.

Just across the New York-Canadian border lies Marineland, an animal exploitation venue that infamously held Kiska, a captive orca in solitary confinement for years until her death in 2023. Known as the “loneliest killer whale in the world,” the orca received global attention after a video of her self-harming, specifically banging her head against her tank, went viral in 2021. 

Now, Marineland is under investigation by Ontario’s Animal Welfare services—and has been since 2020—after 17 whales have died in the park’s care since 2019.

In fact, three belugas from Marineland who were purchased by Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut have also died, sparking a US federal investigation. Mystic Aquarium noted that these animals died from pre-existing conditions the animals had at Marineland before being moved to the US aquarium. The same week the animals were moved to Mystic in 2021, Ontario’s Animal Welfare Services declared all marine mammals at Marineland in distress due to poor water quality.

The US investigation is still ongoing but was prompted after the second beluga’s death.

According to the Canadian Press, twelve of the beluga deaths occurred within a two-year window between 2019 and 2021. Two more belugas have died at Marineland in March 2024, both from torsion—or abnormal twisting of the stomach.

In addition to the 16 beluga whales and Kiska’s death, Marineland also had one bottlenose dolphin, one harbor seal, one gray seal, and two California sea lions die since 2019. According to Solicitor General Michael Kerzner, the Animal Welfare Services have inspected Marineland more than 200 times since 2020.

World Animal Protection Canada’s campaign director, Melissa Matlow, said in a statement:

“Sixteen beluga whales and one orca have died at Marineland since 2019. That is horrifying and the Government of Ontario must step in to act, Marineland has lost the trust of the public and has no business caring for animals.”

World Animal Protection is calling on the Ontario government to shut down Marineland after the two whales’ deaths were announced. Marineland continues to engage in programs that exploit animals, including dolphins, which is illegal under Canada’s criminal code. Niagara Regional Police Services (NRPS) confirmed a second investigation into Marineland in 2022 and charged the company for using captive dolphins in performances. Those charges were stayed, due largely to backlogs in Ontario’s criminal justice system.

Marine animals aren’t the only ones suffering at the entertainment venue.

Marineland was found guilty of keeping three black bears—Slash, Toad, and Lizzy—in cramped conditions with little access to water for months. Maddie Black, a former worker at Marineland, was fired for speaking out about the bear cubs. Her statement prompted an investigation by Ontario’s Animal Welfare Services. The bear cubs’ enclosure was just 48 square feet, with access to an outside enclosure no larger than 360 square feet.

In February 2022, Animal Welfare Services seized Toad and Lizzy, the two female black bears, and brought them to a rescue facility. In November 2022, Slash was also removed from Marineland. There are fifteen remaining bears at Marineland.

This isn’t the first time Marineland has been charged with failing to properly care for its bears. In 2016, Marineland was charged with five counts of cruelty, including failure to provide adequate and appropriate food and water for its 35 American black bears. According to The Guardian, Marineland was charged with six more counts of cruelty the following year. The Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals found out about the cruelty through a complaint and visited Marineland in response.

In 2012, approximately 15 whistleblowers from Marineland came forward to discuss the mistreatment of animals, including Junior, an orca who spent the last four years of his life mostly alone in an indoor small concrete pool with little natural light. Another killer whale was said to bleed from their tail on and off for months and a sea lion, Baker, was kept in a waterless pen before his left eye lens fell out.

The cruelty behind animal entertainment venues is something that can no longer be ignored. Marine mammals suffer immensely both physically and psychologically in concrete tanks where they cannot perform even the basic behaviors their counterparts in the wild enjoy.

While our Canadian colleagues are working to enforce stronger animal protection laws, World Animal Protection US has a unique opportunity to ban the capturing and keeping of orcas, belugas, false killer whales, and pilot whales for public display. This would ensure the belugas at Mystic—who came from Marineland—would be the last generation of belugas to languish at the aquarium.

While we encourage everyone to boycott wild animal entertainment venues, you can take important action by urging your federal legislators to pass the SWIMS Act.

Send a quick email today!

More about