Good news for Zak and Mika, seals saved from execution in a Canadian aquarium

The story of Zak and Mika, two young harp seal pups at the Aquarium des Îles de la Madeleine in Quebec captured the hearts of hundreds of thousands of people around the world. 

In March of this year, Zak and Mika were taken from the wild as whitecoat pups by the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) and provided to the aquarium to display during the summer, under the condition that they be killed at the end of the season in the fall when the aquarium closed its doors.  

Word got out about Zak and Mika’s death sentence, sparking international outrage and a petition which had over 140,000 signatures, asking Canadian Fisheries and Oceans Minister Keith Ashfield to spare the lives of Zak and Mika, and allow for their release rather than sentence them to death.

Thanks to the efforts of IFAW’s Seal Team, Island Wildlife Natural Care Centre who fought so hard and  began the petition and gathered so very many signatures, the Atlantic Wildlife Institute, Hope for Wildlife and the brave person at the Aquarium des Iles who alerted the animal welfare community to this situation -- we’re thrilled to report that this story has a happy ending for Zak and Mika!

We received notification that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans has granted permission to the aquarium to release the seals in Canadian waters. This is fantastic news! It shows that petitions and contacting government officials DOES work, and that when enough of us speak up for animals, our voices are heard.

While this story has a happy ending, IFAW’s work is not done and we still need your help. We need to ensure that other seals and marine mammals in Canada NEVER go through an ordeal like Zak and Mika’s. 

IFAW will be working to improve the policy that allowed Zak and Mika to be taken from the wild and placed in an unaccredited facility in the first place, and we will urge the DFO to change its policy on the capture of marine mammals to be placed in captivity in zoos and aquaria. 

TAKE ACTION. Please contact Canadian Fisheries Minister Keith Ashfield and thank him for allowing the release of Zak and Mika! Then let him know that Canada’s regulations to protect marine mammals need to be improved, and ask that DFO stop the practice of capturing wild marine mammals for zoos and aquaria.  Minister Ashfield’s email address is and his office telephone number is +1 613 992 1067

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Azzedine Downes,IFAW President and CEO
President and Chief Executive Officer
Beth Allgood, Country Director, United States
Country Director, United States
Cynthia Milburn, Director, Animal Welfare Outreach & Education
Senior Advisor, Policy Development
Dr. Maria (Masha) N. Vorontsova, Regional Director, Russia & CIS
Regional Director, Russia & CIS
Faye Cuevas, Esq.
Senior Vice President
Grace Ge Gabriel, Regional Director, Asia
Regional Director, Asia
Jason Bell, Vice President for Conservation and Animal Welfare
Vice President for Conservation and Animal Welfare
Matt Collis, Director, International Policy
Director, International Policy
Patrick Ramage, Program Director, Whales
Program Director, Marine Conservation
Peter LaFontaine, Campaigns Manager, IFAW Washington, D.C.
Campaigns Manager, IFAW Washington, D.C.
Sonja Van Tichelen, Vice President of International Operations
Vice President of International Operations
Staci McLennan, Director, EU Office
Director, EU Office
Tania McCrea-Steele, Project Lead, Global Wildlife Cybercrime
Project Lead, Global Wildlife Cybercrime