Tag Archives: orca

SeaWorld’s cluelessness about anything “natural”

As SeaWorld describes on its own page, SeaWorld Cares, its President and CEO Joel Manby announced, “the company has initiated production on a new orca presentation for its San Diego park.”  The new presentation will showcase “more of the species’ natural behaviors.”

The new experience will engage and inform guests by highlighting more of the species’ natural behaviors.

SeaWorld has provided little to no detail on what is meant by this, but the following image from its website may provide some clues.

What does this picture tell the public about what SeaWorld has in mind for its new show format?

What does this picture tell the public about what SeaWorld has in mind for its new show format?  Image from SeaWorld Cares.

I guess that SeaWorld is attempting to make the point that because, in the wild, orcas breach, when SeaWorld trains the orcas in its collection (by using food deprivation) to jump out of the water, this is a natural behavior.

But if it isn’t exactly clear that this is what SeaWorld means, one can read further in its blog for tells.  Describing the following image, SeaWorld states that “[i]t’s going to be focused more on the natural setting, natural environment and also the natural behaviors of the whales.”

SeaWorld's next example of "natural behaviors." Image from SeaWorld Cares.

SeaWorld’s next example of “natural behaviors.”  Image from SeaWorld Cares.

So, yet another image of orcas leaping out of the water is provided, with the implication, again, that because orcas leap out of the water in the ocean, when they do so upon command in a concrete tank, this makes it a “natural behavior.”  Never mind that the wild orcas are not rewarded with frozen, dead fish or signaled “trick successfully completed” by the toot of the trainer’s whistle, or “bridge”.  SeaWorld is apparently telling us that this is natural behavior.

The concept of “natural behaviors” seems to be the focus, because nothing in SeaWorld’s presentation to stockholders on October 9 or on its SeaWorld Cares site would indicate that “natural setting” or “natural environment” is truly in the offing for its collection of orcas.  Quite to the contrary, SeaWorld has steadfastly refused to signal any support for the creation of actual natural settings or environments, like a marine sanctuary.  In fact Mr. Manby has reportedly stated that “doing so would only lead to the orcas to get sick, and likely die.”

But what might SeaWorld have in mind to make the tanks a more “natural setting” or “natural environment?”  Less blaring music as during the theatrical performances?  Some concrete formed to look like, um, the ocean bottom?  Since it has abandoned the Blue World project, it has apparently rejected the notion of an additional 14 feet in depth to make the tanks more “natural”.  But of course, this additional 14 feet would have done nothing, as in nothing, to make a tank a more natural setting.

The natural setting and natural environment of an orca. Image by Candace Calloway Whiting

The natural setting and natural environment of an orca. Image by Candace Calloway Whiting

While we wait to hear what SeaWorld has in mind for its mission of “naturalness”, it is clear that just as whatever trick SeaWorld entices the orcas to perform, or whatever it may add or subtract from its system of tanks, there is nothing natural about it.

Too bad that the entity responsible for 24 orcas in the United States is apparently clueless about this.

The parallels between this graphic that I made for fun and SeaWorld's own are striking. And disturbing.

The parallels between this graphic that I made for fun and SeaWorld’s own are striking. And disturbing.

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 still doesn’t understand how the SRKW became endangered?

SeaWorld still doesn’t understand how the Southern Resident Killer Whale (SRKW) population became endangered  Either that, or they do understand full well, but fly the balloon of uncertainty for reasons of their own.

Reading this just might make you gasp.

SeaWorld's claim that it is not known why the Southern Resident Killer Whale population became endangered, for all the world to see

SeaWorld’s suggesstion that it is not known why the Southern Resident Killer Whale population became endangered, for all the world to see  From seaworldparks.com.

Oh, SeaWorld.  No study on captive orcas is needed to understand that the horrific and massive extraction of the young orcas for the aquarium industry coupled with the birth-age of females and their gestation cycles is largely responsible for the SRKW population’s being placed,  and very little recovery since being so placed, on the list of Endangered Species.

As of September 2013, the SRKW population totaled 81 individuals ( J Pod = 26, K Pod = 19, L Pod = 36). The size of all three Southern Resident pods was reduced in number from 1965-75 as a result of whale captures for marine park exhibition. At least 13 whales were killed during these captures, while 45 whales were delivered to marine parks around the world. Today, only Lolita (Tokitae) remains alive in captivity at the Miami Seaquarium.   – From the Center for Whale Research

But for SeaWorld to suggest that it is still apparently a mystery reveals little more than its agenda; I’m not sure if that is “at best” or “at worst.”  As with other similar situations with SeaWorld and other aquariums <guess who>, I honestly don’t know if it would be better if they knew the truth and infused uncertainty, or if they truly didn’t know, but were entrusted with the lives of these magnificent beings.

Either way, looks like a Catch-22 for the orcas, both captive and free.

The rest of us can understand that studying orcas in concrete tanks has not translated significantly to conservation of the wild ones and will not tell us why the wild ones became endangered.  In contrast, organizations like the Center For Whale Research, whose mission is the study and conservation of the SRKW population, is where the daily scientific study of this wild population actually occurs, study that may yield important information on how to protect them and their habitat from further assaults.

Perhaps SeaWorld “may someday” understand how the Southern Residents became endangered.  If it really is “someday”, that day will be after SeaWorld has been forced to retire its “collection” of living beings to sea pens where they can once again, or for the first time, enjoy life in real seawater, with real tides, and a real sun, moon, and stars, and a real shore, and people who really get the right of orcas and all beings to have that life, to experience their birthright.

What you can do: Become a member of or donate to the Center for Whale Research and contribute to real protection of the wild ones.

Orcas K14, K42 and K26 - Sept. 17, 2009, known by and photo credit to the Center for Whale Research

Orcas K14, K42 and K26 – Sept. 17, 2009, known by and photo credit to the Center for Whale Research

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.

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.

Pixar: How about another tweak to revised ending to ‘Finding Nemo’ sequel?

In a truly awesome announcement, we learned that Pixar reconnoitered with the Blackfish folks, including director Gabriela Cowperthwaite, to discuss revising its ending to the sequel to Finding Nemo, called Finding Dory.

Apparently, Pixar, having seen Blackfish, realized that captivity may not be all it has been, by the aquarium industry, cracked up to be, and reached out to Cowperthwaite.  The original ending, in which the lost fish and marine mammals would spend the rest of their days in captivity, would be revised to allow the animals a “choice” as to whether they stayed at the aquarium or returned to the wild.

While Pixar and others may feel that this revision is a welcome one, I continue to live up to my “fly in the ointment” status and ask, “Wouldn’t this revision teach children that animals make a choice about their captivity status? When they see animals at aquariums and marine parks, having seen this new ending, might they not make this association?”

One of the things the public learned in Blackfish is that not all that they hear at SeaWorld is necessarily true.  Life spans of orca longer in captivity? You’ll hear from SeaWorld that, yes, they are.  But the reality is quite the opposite, as reported today in China Daily.  Orcas live a demonstrably shorter life span in captivity.  Another of the lessons that can be learned every day at SeaWorld, is that the animals only perform tricks (called “behaviors” by the Spin Tank of the aquarium industry) when they choose.  In Blackfish, we watch former trainer Carol Ray struggle with the fact that, as a trainer, she regurgitated this “choice” spin to the public on a regular basis, just as the trainers were instructed.

So, Pixar.  Choice?  The animals “choose” to remain in captivity?

Animated films have educated children about animals since there has been animated film.  And while anthropomorphizing is part and parcel of this process, such anthropomorphizing is not, in itself, a problem.  In fact, it’s quite good and quite effective at delivering a message to children.  But please, Pixar, don’t use this tool or teach our children, in a theatrical sleight of hand, that animals have some say in their residence at marine parks, or else be just like SeaWorld, teaching that dolphins perform tricks when they “choose”.

Blackfish, distributed by Magnolia Pictures, is playing across the United States right now.  See it.  Join the meaningful conversation about the end of marine mammal captivity and how we must not teach our children something about this issue that is just not true.

In fact, here is where you can teach your children about orcas, while they listen to them LIVE on hydrophones off the San Juan Islands.  How awesome is that?!!

Take your children to see them in the wild, and teach your children the true awesomeness of life.

Take your children to see them in the wild, and teach your children the true awesomeness of life.

And while you listen to them live on the hydrophone network or plan a family vacation to the nearest shore to see wild dolphins (or even river, where there are river otters and beavers), sign a pledge by Save Japan Dolphins not to see them in captivity and contact Pixar.

Pixar Contact information:

  • Pixar Animation Studios
  • 1200 Park Avenue
  • Emeryville, CA 94608
  • Telephone: (510) 922-3000
  • Facsimile: (510) 922-3151

Edited to add the following AWESOMENESS:  Earlier today there was an amazing occurrence recorded on the hydrophone network when a SUPERPOD graced us with their magnificence.  Selena Rhodes Scofield put together this excerpt and points to new vocalizations at 5:35 – 5:43.  Get ready for audio wonderfulness, not to be heard at any aquarium anywhere.

 

A long Winter in Hudson Bay for a family of orcas

An aerial survey today from Inukjuak, Quebec, Canada, revealed no trace of the orca family that was trapped in one small breathing hole near the village of Inukjuak.  Hopes that the whales were “free” have been given a boost among many, but at the risk of showing what a skeptic I am, I believe that our vigil has, in truth, just begun.

What this “vigil” will look like, what we can do, or how we can do it, is less certain.  At a minimum, we must continue to, together, watch the weather and watch for the family, and be ready to move on a moment’s notice.  Watching for the family involves someone continuing to do reconnaissance flights in the area. Or on-ground surveys for any sign of the family.

The need for this vigil is revealed by knowledge about the orcas and about Hudson Bay.  If Hudson Bay is truly in ice lock-down with no path to open water available, as shown in this animated ice map, even accounting for scaling issues, there is no free path from the Inukjuak area or the grid flown today by the aerial survey to the open ocean, the orcas’ Winter habitat.

Ice Map, January 9, 2013. Photo from Environment Canada

Ice Map, January 9, 2013. Photo from Environment Canada

While more than several newspapers and news outlets picked up the story of the trapped whales, many reports leaned toward a hopeful outcome.  And while hope may spring eternal, the facts on the ground after the aerial survey, however, revealed only: no sight of the whales in a 40- by 50-mile grid where patches of open water were seen, some as large as football fields.

The overflight told us nothing about the distance to truly open water, nor could it tell us about the weather that will descend upon the Hudson Bay.  Will it see warmer than usual weather or will cold arrive, as it did this week, and as is more characteristic of the Hudson Bay area?

What we also know, with or without an overflight, there is no path of ice-free water for the whales to swim through between this area and the open ocean, with sign posts that the whales can read “This Way to the Open Ocean.”  As David Kirby observed, the whales are usually not in this area at this time of year.  “The whales, obviously, stayed too long, and when a cold snap arrived, they found themselves trapped in an ice-bound hell.”  Without a road map. With no path through the Hudson Strait to the Atlantic Ocean, where they would normally be at this time of year.

As they did in the story underlying the movie, The Big Miracle, Kasco Marine was prepared to put boots and de-icers on the ground to keep the whales’ breathing hole open as a path was created to “open water.”  But nowhere in the interior of Hudson Bay is it considered “open water” for this family of orcas.  “Open water” is the Atlantic Ocean.  So to reach “open water”, it may be necessary to follow the whales from breathing hole to breathing hole until the Spring thaw.

For now, with the family not being spotted, there is nothing to do but watch.  Watch for the whales and for a change in ice conditions.  Should the family reappear, however, a restart of a Herculean effort like the one coordinated on Facebook by Fins and Fluke may be necessary.

Many thanks to the groups and individuals who worked to establish contacts from the United States to Australia to Canada and back again and to make #SaveQuebecWhales trend on Twitter.   While it may be a long Winter in Hudson Bay for this family of orcas, they will not endure this Winter alone.  There are people all around the world standing at the ready if and when they are again sighted.  Join us.

Death at SeaWorld Panel Discussion Coming to Emory Bookstore

Cetacean lovers in the Southeast: mark your calendars!

Death at SeaWorld

Death at SeaWorld, by David Kirby, released July 17, 2012

On September 17, 2012, David Kirby, New York Times best-selling author and author of Death at SeaWorld, Dr. Naomi Rose, and Dr. Lori Marino will participate in a panel discussion, followed by book-signing.  Ask me if I’m excited.

While I have not seen a specific title of the discussion, it is a safe bet that it will address the safety of humans in close proximity to captive orcas, whether orcas and other cetaceans should be confined in captivity, whether SeaWorld has the best interest of either the human trainers or the orca “trainees” in mind as it runs its marine park enterprise, other issues brought out at trial in the OSHA v. SeaWorld that we may not have heard, and how science could and should inform sound U.S. policy on cetacean captivity, especially now.

All three speakers are experts in cetacean captivity, but bring their own perspective:

David Kirby is the latest to join the cetacean expert ranks, having earned his cetacean stripes while researching and writing Death at SeaWorld.  He brought his over 20 years as an investigative reporter to bear in crafting an engaging tale of the captive orca through the eyes of both orca experts and former orca trainers.

Dr. Naomi Rose, by being highlighted in Kirby’s book, has revealed more of her personal story and how she came to know the orca, than she  may have imagined.  But it is this story of a woman’s personal journey of coming to know the orca – from marine biology graduate student to researcher in orca’s behavior and its community structure to Senior Scientist at Humane Society International – that provides access to the orca in a way that few experience, but many, young and old, will recognize.  And to which the budding marine biologist will aspire.

Dr. Lori Marino, a behavioral psychologist, conducted the research that resulted in the first published findings regarding mirror recognition in bottlenose dolphins, findings that revealed that dolphins are self-aware, sentient beings.  Dr. Marino has not only published her findings on dolphin behavior and spoken on how dolphins are ill-suited to captivity, she has provided her expert opinion in testimony to Congress.  Atlanta is fortunate to have her here as a Senior Lecturer at Emory University.

Perhaps all three will have stories to tell of wild orca songs or news from the Nonhuman Rights Project, having just returned from Superpod II, a gathering of orca experts, which mirrors the gathering of orcas each Summer in a Superpod off the coast of San Juan Island, Washington.

While certainly some of the discussion will surround the issues of safety of the trainers in light of the OSHA judgment that SeaWorld must cease waterwork  (where the humans are in the water with the orcas) until it can better safeguard the lives of the trainers AND SeaWorld’s recent plans to return to waterwork, this little blogger is looking forward to Atlanta’s having more cetacean expertise in its city limits than ever before.  Notwithstanding that the world’s largest dolphin, whale and fish bowl is located right here.

It is such a tremendous honor to have these three experts here at the same time,  in the same room, and in the same city where the the world’s largest aquarium wants to erode cetacean protection from being wild-caught and watched in U.S. whale shows.

Panel Discussion: David Kirby, Dr. Naomi Rose and Dr. Lori Marino:

  • September 17, 2012; 6:00 p.m.
  • Barnes & Noble at Emory Bookstore
  • 1390 Oxford Road
  • Atlanta, GA  30322

It should be a fascinating evening, and one that this blogger will never forget.  And will expect to Tweet about all night long.  On the 17th. Well, and maybe the 16th.  Or the 15th, too.  Ah, hell.  This is the biggest cetacean GOOD news that I’ve heard in a long time.  I hope you don’t mind if I bask in it just a while.  Yes, I’m excited.