Tag Archives: dolphin captivity

Open Letter to the City of Jacksonville

The City of Jacksonville, Florida, is considering opening an aquarium. A group called Aquajax is actively promoting this project, with one of its stated goals to “[m]ake the city a desired vacation location for both local and foreign visitors.”

From Lolita, A Slave to Entertainment.

From Lolita, A Slave to Entertainment.

Please consider the following issues as evidence that in contrast to making Jacksonville such a “desired” location, the erection of an aquarium, at considerable financial cost, such a facility will doom Jacksonville to being out-of-step with the current and growing sensibilities of an increasingly ethical public.   Some of the problems of captivity for orcas were brought to the public’s attention by the book, Death at SeaWorld, by New York Times best-selling author David Kirby, and the award-winning film, Blackfish, but the problems of captivity extend beyond that one dolphin species.

SeaWorld, which showcases orcas but owns in its “collection” many other species.  These other species are doing little to redeem SeaWorld’s reputation, as the public, worldwide, becomes aware that exploitation of marine creatures, including but not limited to marine mammals, is an endeavor that we must begin to phase out, not encourage.  The public, which may recognize SeaWorld’s efforts in coordinated rescue efforts of stranded or injured marine animals, also recognizes that one good deed (rescue) does not offset a horrid one (captivity).  There is no balancing that will remove the blemish of captivity from SeaWorld.

Consider these other “current events:”

  • The National Aquarium is ending its dolphin captivity after it recognized that phasing out its dolphin shows, which it had done only about a year previously, was not “enough”.
  • The Vancouver Aquarium Board has voted to end captive breeding.
  • Southwest Airlines ended its 25-year cross-promotion with SeaWorld.
  • The Georgia Aquarium has been denied a permit to import 18 wild-caught Russian beluga whales.
  • Bills to end orca captivity are under consideration in both California and New York. These bills, with the support of over 1.2 million people, are a reflection of the recognition that marine mammals and other oceanic aquatic life should not be exploited for human entertainment.
  • A plan to release Lolita (Tokitae) from the Miami Seaquarium has been proposed by the Orca Network.
  • Facilities in the United States that hold marine mammals inspire the growth of such facilities worldwide, which, in turn, supports a horrific dolphin hunting industry in Taiji, Japan, and elsewhere, where thousands of dolphins, hundreds of entire families of dolphins, can be slaughtered each year, in order for a number of young, pretty dolphins to be forced to live a life forever in captive, money-making (whether for-profit or non-profit) facilities.
  • Other marine mammals, such as polar bears, seals and sea lions, have an equal right to live in their own natural habitat.  Zoos and aquariums that hold them are targeted for being unable to provide suitable habitat, and in any case, deny them their birthright.
  • Zoo Mendoza in Argentina is being called upon by nearly a million people to release Arturo, a polar bear living in desert-like conditions, to a better facility in Canada.
  • SeaWorld’s last remaining polar bear, Johnny, who lived an unnatural solitary life, finally succumbed to this life and died, even while being touted as being in good health.
  • Zoos are coming under more scrutiny as being incapable of providing the kind of life that actually teaches our children to respect wildlife.

It is becoming all too clear every day to more compassionate and ethics-centered humans that “education” at the cost of denying the birthright of animals who should have freedom is a cost that is inconsistent with a humane society.

To learn more about the reality of the captive marine mammal industry, please watch A Fall from Freedom, Blackfish, A Whale of a Business, Lolita: A Slave to Entertainment.

To learn more about the link between dolphin captivity and dolphin killing, please watch the Academy Award-winning film, The Cove, and follow the efforts of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and its campaign, Operation Infinite Patience, dedicated to ending the horrific dolphin hunt in Taiji, Japan.  Here is one report from last year’s dolphin hunt, which is set to resume on September 1.

Do not invest your monies, or your ethics, in a dying industry.

Cove Blue for Jiyu

Photo Credit: James R. Evans / U.S. Pacific Fleet

SeaWorld reprised its 1976 rhetoric to oppose 2014 legislation

SeaWorld has the potential either to earn the support or the opposition of conservationists.  It has the potential for conducting genuinely educational work, but the evidence to date suggests that the business rather than the educational interests are dominating management decision . . .

This statement of the Florida Audubon Society does not refer to California’s proposed legislation, AB2140, the Orca Welfare and Safety Act, proposed by Assemblyman Richard Bloom.  Rather, it was written in the Lakeland Ledger nearly 40 years ago when, as federal legislation was proposed in 1976 for the protection of orcas, SeaWorld took the same position then as now in opposition to legislation which would limit and even end the practice of exhibiting orcas.  SeaWorld’s familiar refrain is from the same songbook that we heard them consult during this week’s hearing in the California Assembly conference room, despite the evidence of increased mortality and health risks among captive orcas.

The effect of this legislation will be to prevent you and your children from experiencing, enjoying and learning about marine animals.  It would prohibit the valuable research and educational activities carried on by SeaWorld and other zoos and oceanariums. – SeaWorld flyer distributed to patrons

The Florida Audubon Society foretold this outcome, not as a prediction, but as a justification for the precautionary steps that supported the passage of the 1976 legislation:

If, despite careful veterinary care the whales die prematurely, as has happened at SeaWorld, the possibility should be faced that the Orlando area is not a suitable habitat for the species.

Unfortunately, we did not heed that warning.  Instead, the Congress did not pass the legislation and many lives have been sacrificed just so we could see an orca in a concrete tank.  The truth is, this only allowed 40 more years of SeaWorld teaching us to teach our children that we “deserve” to see them in the morbidly small and barren tanks, to teach humans that we have an “entitlement” to see them and have them splash us, as our innocent children giggle while being corrupted to accept without realizing it a worldview of domination and exploitation.

What is more disturbing in 2014 than in 1976 is that the last 40 years have borne out what we feared might be the case in 1976: increased mortality, ill-health and denial of a birthright to live in the ocean are the costs paid by an unwilling orca to line the pockets of SeaWorld with money and children’s mouths with cotton candy.

Not all the orcas on the following list were captured by SeaWorld.  They are included because they were either captured by/for or sent to United States aquariums.  But what if the legislation had been passed in 1976?  What if other countries had followed suit with similar protections in 1976 and the years preceding the captures of the ensuing years?

The following list includes those orcas captured in or after 1976 (information from Orca Home and Ceta-base) or born (including stillborn/miscarriage/fetus) to mothers or out of fathers captured in or after that year, who might not have been in captivity if the 1976 legislation had passed not only the Senate, but also the House.  For comparison, the oldest known orca living in the wild is Granny, the oldest member of the J pod, and is estimated to be 103 years old.  Deceased orcas are shown in bold text.

Dedicated to all the orca mothers and fathers, grandmothers, grandfathers, sisters, brothers who have found themselves in captivity and have lost children, parents and siblings, or seen them live only to be taken away and shipped to another tank in another city or country as a result of the morbid thing that is orca captivity:

  • Kenau (F, captured in 1976; died after 15 years of captivity)
    • Baby Shamu 2 (F, died in 1986 at 11 days old)
    • Kayla (F, born in 1988; has lived 26 years in captivity)
      • Halyn (F, born in 2005; died after 2.5 years of captivity)
    • Unnamed, unborn child  (both Kenau and her baby died in 1991 during Kenau’s 12th month of pregnancy)
  • Gudrun (F, captured in 1976; died after 19.5 years of captivity)
    • Taima (F, born in 1989; died after 21 years of captivity)
      • Sumar (M, born in 1998; died after 12 years of captivity)
      • Malia (F, born in 2007; has lived 7 years in captivity)
      • Stillborn child, in which Taima also dies during labor, 2010
    • Nyar (F, born in 1993; died after 2.5 years of captivity)
    • Unnamed stillborn child, 1996
  • Canuck 2 (M, captured in 1977; died after 4 years of captivity)
  • Kona 2 (F, captured in 1977; died after 10 years of captivity)
    • unnamed fetus discovered during Kona 2’s necropsy
  • Kandu 5 (F, captured in 1977; died after 12 years of captivity)
    • Unnamed stillbirth, 1986
    • Orkid (F, born in 1988; has lived 26 years in captivity)
  • Winnie (F, captured in 1977; died after 24.5 years of captivity)
  • Shawn(?) (F, captured in 1978; died after 1 year of captivity)
  • Katina (F, captured in 1978, has lived 36 years in captivity)
    • Kalina (F, born in 1985; died after 25 years of captivity)
      • Keet (M, born in 1993, has lived 21 years in captivity)
      • Keto (M, born in 1995; has lived 19 years in captivity)
      • Unnamed (Stillborn in 1997)
      • Tuar (M, born in 1999; has lived 15 years in captivity)
      • Skyla (F, born in 2004; has lived 10 years in captivity)
    • Katerina (F, born in 1988; died after 10.5 years of captivity)
    • Taku (M, born in 1993; died after 14 years of captivity)
    • Unna (F, born in 1996; has lived 18 years in captivity)
      • Unnamed (F, stillborn in 2006)
    • Ikaika (F, born in 2002; has lived 12 years in captivity)
    • Nalani (F, born in 2006; has lived 7.5 years in captivity)
    • Makaio (F, born in 2010; has lived 3.5 years in captivity)
  • Kasatka (F, captured in 1978, has lived 36 years in captivity)
    • Takara (F, born in 1991; has lived 23 years in captivity)
      • Kohana (F, born in 2002; has lived 12 years in captivity)
        • Adan (M, born in 2010; has lived 3.5 years in captivity)
        • Vicky (F, born in 2012; died at 10 months old)
      • Trua (M, born in 2005; has lived 8.5 years in captivity)
      • Sakari (F, born in 2010; has lived 4 years in captivity)
      • Kamea (F, born in 2013; has lived 5 months in captivity)
    • Nakai (F, born in 2001; has lived 13 years in captivity)
    • Kalia (F, born in 2004; has lived 9.5 years in captivity)
    • Makani (M, born in 2013; has lived 1 year in captivity)
  • Kahana (F, captured 1978; died after 12.5 years of captivity, six months after miscarriage of only child)
    • Unnamed child (died during miscarriage, 1990)
  • Kotar (M, captured in 1978; died after 16.5 years of captivity)
  • Surfer Girl (F, captured in 1979; died after 9 days of captivity)
  • Vigga (F, captured in 1980; died after 19.5 years of captivity)
  • Bjossa (F, captured in 1980; died after 21 years of captivity, originally captured by Vancouver Aquarium)
    • Unnamed (F, died in 1988 at 22 days old)
    • K’yosha (F, died in 1991 at 96 days old)
    • Unnamed (F, died in 1995 at 1 day old)
  • Ulises (M, captured in 1980; has lived 34 years in captivity)
  • Tilikum (M, captured in 1980; has lived 34 years in captivity)
  • Nootka 4 (F, captured in 1982; died after 12 years of captivity, originally captured by Marineland of Ontario)
    • Unnamed (M, died in 1992 at 33 days old)
    • Unnamed stillborn child, 1994
  • Haida 2 (F, captured in 1982; died after 19 years of captivity)
    • Kyuquot (M, born in 1991; has lived 23 years in captivity)
    • Unnamed (F, died in 1994 at 38 days old)
    • Unnamed fetus dies in 2001 with his mother in her fifth month of pregnancy
  • Samoa (F, captured in 1983; died after 8.5 years of captivity)
    • Unnamed near full-term baby dies in 1992 during labor with his mother
  • Splash (F, born 1989 to Nootka  5 (captured 1981) at Marineland of Canada; taken from her and transferred to SeaWorld of California in 1992, she died in 2005 after 15.5 years of captivity)

The shame of these lives and deaths should sit heavy on all our hearts.  When we have an opportunity to support legislation, whether federal, state or local, to limit and ban marine mammal captivity, we owe it to these and many other marine mammals all efforts to secure them as much of their birthright as we can.  We have denied it for far too long.

Sign to support the Orca Welfare and Safety Act.

orca

They each and every one of them had the right to live this life, but the captivity industry and its patrons took it away. Photo by the Center for Whale Research.

 

 

SeaWorld is coming for your children

SeaWorld is coming for your children.

SeaWorld's Fairy Kingdom

SeaWorld uses cute pictures to create a happy sea wonderland. Who could resist? Hmm. How about YOU!

It will use pop music and pretty, clapping, spandex-clad youths riding and standing on captive wild creatures to create a living fairy tale that only a few of your children will understand is actually a lie.

Don’t let your children become a trussed up Hansel & Gretel to a dressed up, but very hungry, witch.

And lest one imagine that it is any better at other aquariums with captive marine mammals, stop it.  You’re about to enter the fairy tale again. Which is exactly what they want.  The Georgia Aquarium expressly entices you with the promise of magic:

It’s Broadway theater. With dolphin stars! Original music! Amazing choreography! And soaring action!

Be part of something magical.

Only at the world’s largest, most magical aquarium. Georgia Aquarium, where imaginations go to play.

I might have added, “And belugas go to die” if I didn’t want to extract you from that “most magical” wonderland of dolphin domination and alternating cycles of sensory deprivation/sensory overload. Take a moment to think about that. Just a moment.  You can handle it.

Dolphins in barren concrete tanks, where they have ceased using much of their echolocation because it bounces around the concrete in a confusing manner that does not occur in nature.  Alternate that with the aquariums’ cueing their horrific music. Every day. A never-ending cycle of silence-loud-silence-loud-silence-loud. “Three shows daily!” For the rest of the dolphins’ restricted and unimaginably empty lives.

At the risk of losing you to the “most magical” kingdom, here is the Georgia Aquarium’s ad to lure us in with our children, not to mention our secret and just-as-innocent inner child.  Remember, it is not true. It is a constructed, “most magical” facade of domination and deprivation.  Deep breath – now go on in.

Ugh. I suspect that you can see that it is hype, very well-made hype.  But please, see behind that hype to the horrid existence for captive dolphins and whales and know that you’ve been had for your entire life if you thought that dolphin shows were okay. Had. Conned. By hype. To believe that you were doing something good for dolphins if you went to their show. Guess again.  You weren’t. You were had.  We were all had.

Georgia Aquarium Dolphin Tales

There are so many things wrong with this picture. How many can you find?

But don’t let them have your children.  Take a pledge that you will not go to the dolphin show.

And if you see this post in time, watch Blackfish on CNN this Sunday, February 9, at 9pm and 11pm ET.

Why DO people like “Blackfish”?

James Franco has “analyzed” the appeal of Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s award-winning film Blackfish and has what I’ve seen characterized as some interesting observations.  His theory is that Blackfish delivers on a dark underbelly: it dishes out blood without the guilt.

While he may be onto something about those who go to the shows at SeaWorld who may have a secret, lurking, black desire to see some violent orca-on-human behavior, much as those who go to the circus might secretly hope for the tight-rope walker to need that net, I’m thinking that doesn’t explain the appeal of Blackfish.

Rather, what resonates is the universal truth that all living beings share, which is a desire to live a fully-expressed life. What comes through is our ability to have walked on a darker side of life, to have contributed to a machine of which we were but vaguely aware or perhaps quite aware, to have been even an integral part of that machine, but to be able to truly undo, to redo, and to redress.  What comes through is celebration and redemption: something that even SeaWorld could embrace if it chose.

The dark side of Blackfish? I’m not sure there is one.

If it’s dark you want, just preserve the captivity-making machine of SeaWorld, of Marineland, of Miami Seaquarium, of Loro Parque, of the Georgia Aquarium, of Shedd, of SeaWorld Kamogawa, of the Dubai Aquarium, of Atlantis: The Palm, of the Utrish dolphinaria, of the Beijing Aquarium, of the Nagoya Aquarium or the more than fifty aquariums in the nation of Japan (more than any nation on Earth).  If dark you want, don’t stop the new projects that are continually wanting to emulate SeaWorld’s model.

If, on the other hand, one wants to step into an ethic that preserves and respects life, be part of closing all dolphin and whale shows and ending the capturing and breeding-for-captivity.  Learn about the wild ones on their terms, without the noise, without the shows, without the artificial splashing of stuffed-toy-purchasing children and their parents.

So, at the risk of closing with a “pretty but uninspired long-lens shot[] of whales frolicking peacefully . . . ,” it is an image like this that is the inspiration of those who so love Blackfish and the Blackfish Effect.  This is our goal for all of them.

Why do people like Blackfish?  Because they resonate with truth. And because they very much like redemption. Both for us and for the dolphins.

Support this for all of them by signing the pledge to never go to a dolphin show.

Don’t invest in the captivity machine. Take the pledge to never go to a dolphin show.

What you can doRespect and celebrate life.  Take the pledge to never go to a dolphin show.  Join the #Blackfish Brigade on Facebook and Twitter and take part in coordinated action to get the attention of the entertainment (e.g., concerts at SeaWorld properties) and service industries (e.g., Southwest Airlines) that we want to end the dolphin shows.  And never stop until the shows stop.

Sometimes A Great Nocean: the Simpsons Does SeaWorld

The Twitterverse plants ideas that can’t be shaken, like the tune that someone innocently hums while passing you on the opposite escalator.  Today’s sticky thought began innocently enough.

Watch as the SeaWorld-Simpsons connection is established in your brain

Watch as the SeaWorld-Simpsons connection is established in your brain

A proposal for a perfectly lovely animated movie based on Blackfish that would teach children to respect wildlife enough to see them in the wild (before they had been derailed and come to expect to “have” wildlife on the other side of a glass wall, in the best of instant gratification schemes) turned quickly into an episode – no, an entire series of mental episodes – of The SimpsonsThe Simpsons is especially fitting since Sam Simon, co-developer of The Simpsons, is an exemplar for championing the true nature of this world and whose support for the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society resulted in The Sam Simon being part of the SSCS-Australia organization’s whale-protecting fleet.

And because I have neither the skill nor the rights to write the erstwhile Simpsons scripts, I will leave it to the imagination of the overlapping Venn Diagram of Simpsons and wildlife fans.

But rolling around in my noodle are the images of the battling Bart (wants to own a dolphin) and Maggie Lisa (understands that wildlife belongs in the wild), with Bart’s selfish desires being manipulated by the evil Mr. Burns and his shifty

Even Mr. Burns revealed that he had a heart, if memory serves

Even Mr. Burns revealed that he had a heart, if memory serves

Blue-Haired Lawyer to project his desires onto stuffed toy ownership and dreams of becoming a trainer, while hapless Smithers allows his loyalty to Mr. Burns to take him, once again, down the garden path, offering special rates to schools for “field trips” to the Mega Aquarium Chain.  Or the trainers Ernst and Gunter, spewing out the latest script written by Sideshow Bob, while Patches and Poor Violet are exploited in a Public Service Announcement that reveals that orphans deserve to exploit captive dolphins, too.

Or the secrets revealed by Groundskeeper Willie about how a young man was pulled into the orca tank at night and killed, while Smithers (or was it Dr. Julius Hibbert?) was backed into regurgitating a story about hypothermia.

I think I was on a roll until that last bit. But the truth of captivity is not funny.  Dolphins consistently die around the world to feed the aquarium machine, to supply the demand of the market that the aquarium industry created.

Sometimes a Great Nocean would be a wonderful script indeed when Mr. Burns realizes that his greed has resulted in a massive manipulation of both nonhuman and human life, has degraded the lives of all and the ethical compass of humans, and sends Smithers out with an announcement that captivity, while begun in an innocent time, would be irresponsible if continued and that Mega Aquarium Chain would now be turned to an enterprise dedicated to the rehabilitation and release of stranded marine mammals and genuine studies of how to protect their marine habitats.

DOH!

What you can do: To become involved in resetting the ethical compass to the True North of respect for marine mammals, first WATCH BLACKFISH! Then follow your heart and your head and host or join an event in your city to Empty the Tanks, and follow the Blackfish Brigade, the Voice of the Orcas and the Sea Shepherd Cove Guardians for daily actions to bring marine mammal freedom into reality.

A generous reader pointed out that I meant Lisa! Thank you! 😉

A sea of cars that say “Watch #Blackfish”

Cars windows have been pronouncing gleeful occasions, such as marriage, since there were car windows.  Whether with tempera paints, shoe polish, or (plant-based) soap, there is a sea of “announcement” space as close as your drive-way, carport or garage.

What is there to announce?  In a word, blackfish.  If you have missed the news stories on CNN, HLN, CBS, ABC, etc., surrounding Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s, Oscar-buzz film Blackfish, and the controversy of SeaWorld’s maintaining a “collection” of highly intelligent orcas in morbidly small tanks, you are likely to remain unable to miss it for long.  In a nutshell, activists have been saying for many years that orcas, dolphins and whales are not suited to captivity. But along came a documentary to explore why an orca would kill one of his trainers, would “bite the hand that feeds” him, and the rest is history.

Again, if you’ve missed the story, just google “Blackfish” or, if you are social media savvy, search hashtag #Blackfish on Twitter. Especially via Twitter, you will see the worldwide conversation about the impact that watching the film and reading David Kirby’s book Death at SeaWorld is having on a world that had no idea.  You’ll find that a six-year-old boy who snuck in while his parents were watching Blackfish inspired a birthday present of demonstrations at three SeaWorld locations.
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But what about those who have missed it, who aren’t into current events or social media?
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Imagine a sea of cars emblazoned with the simple phrase “Watch Blackfish” and maybe add “on Netflix, Amazon and iTunes.”  Imagine the parking lots and interstate highways and traffic stops across these United States peppered with cars that encourage folks to join the Blackfish movement, to learn about the “Blackfish Effect,” and to take part in encouraging the world’s most-emulated marine park, SeaWorld, to see the error of its ways and change its model from exploitation to real conservation.
Watch Blackfish on Netflix, Amazon, or iTunes

Watch Blackfish on Netflix, Amazon, or iTunes

As one who isn’t particularly fond of bumper stickers, I really like the idea of car paint: it’s simple, washable and easily changeable.

Watch Blackfish

I’m hoping to wash my car before someone else makes the suggestion

Speaking of washable, off I go to the car wash and the crafts store.  While my first attempt got honks and thumbs-ups as I drove the 550 miles on I-75 from Florida, I think I’ll spiff up old paint for her new job as part of an ocean of cars with a mission.

Watch #Blackfish.  Listen for the truth.  Don’t ever go to a marine park or aquarium that uses these beings for whatever purpose is their flavor-of-the-month.  Join the Blackfish movement.
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And if you are so-moved, paint that car!!! ♥

Former SeaWorld copywriter’s note in light of Open Letter

As we read SeaWorld’s Open Letter, which it wrote in response to the truth-telling documentary Blackfish and published in several U.S. newspapers, we could spot the spins and turns it wove for an unsuspecting potential shareholder and visitor base.

There have been several responses written to clarify the spins and turns, including:

Something floated across my radar screen today, and when I re-read it, it literally took my breath away.  It was a statement of an advertising agency copywriter for SeaWorld, who described SeaWorld as “one of my favorite accounts . . .”  She submitted her statement to the Orca Network, which published it a bit more than a month ago.  Her statements are truly chilling in light of SeaWorld’s advertisement, Open Letter, Op Ed, whatever it is (which isn’t clear and may be characterized differently in the different publications):

A devout animal-lover, I thought (as did most of the creative team) I was participating in the preservation of Orcas seemingly delighting in this magical environment of hands-on trainers soaring through the choreographed acts with them. Oh how very wrong I was. And oh how deeply ashamed I am today for being a part of this vile travesty. I never knew or saw SeaWorld in the truest sense. I bought the lie…

So, as I read SeaWorld’s Open Letter, I think of this copywriter, and her anguish at having been part of disseminating the SeaWorld view of these magnificent beings, the orcas and other dolphins, the beluga whales – all the wide-ranging marine mammals – and I find myself wondering whether, and even when, the copywriter who worked on the current piece will have a similar epiphany.

What you can do:

Write letters to the editor: In order to ensure that the newspapers who published the SeaWorld piece are presenting both sides of the issue, the Blackfish Brigade has initiated a CALL TO ACTION regarding writing a letter to the editor of those newspapers (but don’t forget your local paper), to request that they publish one of the above-linked responses to SeaWorld, and state your view that a business model that is built upon the captivity of these magnificent creatures is now outdated, and that SeaWorld must adapt to our new awareness and begin working to develop a new one that is not based on animals-as-entertainment or captivity.

Participate in Empty the Tanks: The plans for the second annual Empty the Tanks events to be held on May 24, 2014, have already begun.  Check to see if your city has an event or events scheduled and begin the rallying cry to Empty the Tanks!

Share the word that Blackfish, being watched by more and more people every day and getting Oscar buzz, is available on NetFlix, Amazon and iTunes.

I’m following Blackfish Brigade for coordinated actions to make sure that SeaWorld and all aquariums that hold marine mammals captive are @blackfished!

There is no eduation within the mind of man that can justify the enslavement of dolphins.  Certainly no miseducation can.

There is no education within the mind of man that can justify the enslavement of dolphins. Certainly no miseducation can.

SeaWorld uses full-page advertisement: an insult to both orca and human

As SeaWorld recoils from the truth-telling Gabriela Cowperthwaite film, Blackfish, various interests have stepped forward in SeaWorld’s defense.  Its defense by the Florida Attractions Association is not surprising.  Nor is SeaWorld’s own self-defensive ad, a statement which it today published in eight U.S. newspapers.

Also not surprising is its message which is a repackaged refrain that most will recognize.  Its first point, that SeaWorld “does not” capture killer whales in the wild, is a true statement.  Since Blackfish never suggested that SeaWorld is actively capturing orcas (killer whales), it is misleading that this was their ad’s opener.  Significantly, however, is that SeaWorld’s adverstisement omits the fact – the truth – that SeaWorld is part of an initiative to capture other whales for display at its parks, being party to the Georgia Aquarium’s 2012 application to capture 18 wild beluga whales in Russia.

When, however, SeaWorld states that it does not separate killer whale young from their mothers, except, for instance, if the mother cannot care for the young, the lack of truth rankles and the words fall hard on an ear that understands even a little about this process.

Katina is a female orca at SeaWorld Orlando.  SeaWorld has removed five of Katina’s seven young from her.  Because young, wild female orcas learn from older females how to be mothers, Katina, snatched from the wild at about the age of two on October 26, 1978, was premeditatedly removed from her maternal models by the aquarium industry and was, as a result, actively set up by its capture process to fail as a mother.

Despite the lack of appropriate maternal mentoring, however, SeaWorld used Katina to become a breeding orca and to continue the unnatural mother-child relationship that it would then use to justify its own artificial mother-child separations.

So does “bad mothering” explain why SeaWorld would take five of Katina’s seven children away?

Katina, a "stellar" mother, held at SeaWorld Orlando

Katina, a “stellar” mother, held at SeaWorld Orlando

Actually, the record supports just the opposite inference.  SeaWorld found itself extremely and undeservedly fortunate in Katina’s displaying, instead of a poor mothering record, one that indicates that the separation of her children had nothing to do with her mothering skills.  In contrast with SeaWorld’s ad, trainers who worked with Katina, found that her mothering instinct was strong.  Carol Ray, a former SeaWorld trainer featured in Blackfish, who worked directly with Katina, noted that “Katina took to nursing with no trouble and was immediately receptive to the babies.”  She seemed able to care for both her older children and the newborns, but only so long as SeaWorld allowed it.

Despite these good skills, Katina has experienced every mother’s worst nightmare:  the involuntary removal and even death of her children. She has had five of her seven calves taken from her (one was subsequently returned):

  • Kalina, also known as “Baby Shamu,” was Katina’s first-born, and is considered the first successful orca captive birth.  She was taken from Katina when Kalina was four.  While she was returned later, Kalina died at the age of 25.
  • Katerina, taken from Katina at age two, died at SeaWorld of Texas at the age of ten.
  • Taku, Katina’s third, and taken at age 13, died soon after the separation in 2007 at SeaWorld of Texas.
  • Unna, Katina’s fourth, born in 1996, was taken at age 6, and now lives at SeaWorld of Texas.
  • Ikaika, Katina’s fifth, born in 2002, was taken from her for another breeding program at age four, and now lives at SeaWorld San Diego.
  • Nalani, born in 2006, lives at SeaWorld Orlando with Katina.
  • Makaio, Katina’s youngest, born in 2010, is only the second of Katina’s seven calves who has never been separated from his mother.

The notion that a “healthy social structure” is fostered by removing a child from its mother is something that would be stated only by the captivity industry.

Repeating it only makes the nose grow longer

Repeating it only makes the nose grow longer

SeaWorld seems to think that if something is repeated over and over, it begins to ring like the truth.  The only thing that is ringing in this household is the insult that it lobbed at not only the orcas, and the orcas’ mothering skills, but also at our ability to distinguish fact from fiction.

Don’t take the bait.  Don’t go to the dolphin show.  Share Blackfish far and wide.  Join the Blackfish Brigade on Facebook and on Twitter.  Tweet using the hashtag #Blackfish.  Read Death at SeaWorld for a more in-depth understanding.

Does the Georgia Aquarium understand “extinction”?

The Georgia Aquarium uses the term “extinction” in its recent petition to garner support for taking wild belugas out of the ocean and putting them into tanks.  Whether the Georgia Aquarium understands extinction is not clear.  But there are only two options:

  • A) It does; or
  • B) It does not
Will the Georgia Aquarium's use of the term "extinction" mislead the public?

Will the Georgia Aquarium’s use of the term “extinction” mislead the public?

In its petition, the Aquarium states, “Unfortunately, with fewer than 35 belugas in accredited aquariums in North America, this population of animals in human care is facing certain extinction.”

So, let’s walk through this statement in order to help us understand the message that the Georgia Aquarium is sending to the public:

Extinction: “In biology and ecology, extinction is the end of an organism or of a group of organisms (taxon), normally a species.” (From Wikipedia).

Population of animals in human care (in accredited aquariums in North America):  While the notion of “population extinction” is a credible component of species extinction, it was never intended to describe an artificial, man-made assemblage of animals extracted from wild populations and inserted into a captive display program.  As described in 1993 by Paul Erlich and Gretchen Daily, population extinction is most commonly viewed geographically and in two aspects.  These two aspects are a demographic unit and a mendelian population.  As noted by Erlich and Daily, a demographic unit is “simply an interbreeding group sufficiently isolated from other interbreeding groups so that changes in size do not greatly influence the size of nearby groups, and vice-versa.”  The other group, the mendelian population, “is, in essence, a genetically defined entity that can evolve independently of other such units . . .”

So, does the Georgia Aquarium understand that neither of these definitions was intended to encompass an artificial assemblage of captive animals in a “collection”?  I don’t know the answer to that.  In either event, however, this use of the term is inappropriate, and the Georgia Aquarium should resist its further use in its judicial challenge to NOAA’s denial, on its webpage, in tours at the Aquarium, and in petitions directed at a public who tends to learn much of what it knows about marine mammals from aquariums.  I will add, though, that I find it disconcerting to think that it actually might not understand extinction since it claims “conservation” and “education” as its goals.  Oops.

In the wide and wild world, there is but one beluga population that is, in fact, endangered, being listed on the United States’ List of Endangered Species as well as on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List.  That population is the Cook’s Inlet beluga whale group, which is a demographic unit and possibly also mendelian, whose ongoing plight was caused largely by “over-harvesting”.  Efforts are underway to protect that population, despite recent threats.

While it bears noting that some captive programs utilize aggressive breeding to prevent species-wide extinction where the wild populations are in danger, we humans should not extract wild animals from healthy, wild populations in order to preserve the captive one.  And where we do, we do not invent a fiction that we are doing so to prevent “extinction”.

From MarinelandCanada.com

From MarinelandCanada.com

Short sidebar:  The Georgia Aquarium’s petition notes that there are fewer than 35 beluga whales held in North American accredited aquariums.  This must exclude the 45 beluga whales held at Marineland Canada.  I didn’t realize that Marineland was not accredited.  I think we should leave this issue to the two aquariums to address.  Whether it should have been is another matter.

But back to the point, whether or not the Georgia Aquarium includes the Marineland whales, it would be inappropriate to consider the concept of “extinction” anywhere in this debate over whether the Georgia Aquarium should be allowed to invigorate the international capturing of wild marine mammals for the aquarium industry.

Don’t take the bait.  And I promise I won’t use the term “extinct” in my wish that all facilities that hold marine mammals go the way of the dinosaur.

Beluga Whales in Chukchi Sea, Alaska. Photo credit Laura Morse, NOAA

Beluga Whales in Chukchi Sea, Alaska. Photo credit Laura Morse, NOAA

 

How can I watch Blackfish? Let me count the ways.

As Blackfish continues to open in theaters around the world, the U.S. is “atwitter” with the film’s buzz, with over a million viewers in the 9p to 11p time slot on October 24 alone.  Folks from the rest of the world are wondering when they, too, can see this game-changing film.

Not only showing the film, CNN has provided a week’s worth of programming, with Jane Velez-Mitchell, Anderson Cooper, and Crossfire, highlighting the issues inherent in keeping marine mammals in captivity.  Meanwhile the Blackfish-screening TIDE keeps rolling on CNN with two more scheduled showings, on October 26 and October 27.

Blackfish still wowing the U.S. audience this weekend.

Blackfish still wowing the U.S. audience this weekend.

For social media and interaction, CNN has its own, and Twitter has seen a list of celebrity tweeters join the conversation, including David Kirby, the author of the important book, Death at SeaWorld, Ewan McGregor, Kirstie Alley, the film’s director Gabriela Cowperthwaite, the former trainers featured in both Death at SeaWorld and Blackfish (Voice of the Orcas), and others.  Use the hashtag #Blackfish to join the conversation and to get a sense of its immensity.

Blackfish, The Cove, and don't forget A Fall from Freedom, the first of the three films.

Blackfish, The Cove, and don’t forget A Fall from Freedom, the first of the three films.

If you haven’t seen Blackfish, or want to own a copy, the following links will let you join the conversation:

  • Available from Amazon.com on November 12 (you can pre-order)
  • Available from UK distributor Dogwoof in various formats: streaming, DVD, Blu-ray (and iTunes UK).
  • Streaming from Viooz.

And remember, there is a better way to see orcas.  That is quietly, in the wild, from a distance, perhaps from the land where you won’t interfere with them at all, at The Real Sea World as shown in this video by the Humane Society of the United States where you may come to appreciate, as does marine mammal expert Dr. Naomi Rose, that this is a “life-affirming” way to see orcas.

In the end, it’s about respect.

Pledge NO! to going to see a dolphin show and be part of the solution!