First let's address the documentary. I would like to start with the title "Blackfish". It is meant to sound dark and sinister, to slant a viewers opinion before they even view it. Also, and this is a big issue with me, Orcas are Mammals! not fish. Now let's discuss content. I have not seen this documentary. I have watched all the trailers for it and read articles both for and against the film. The film appears to be a giant attack on SeaWorld for the capture and care of these giant wild mammals. Sensationalism is the only word that comes to mind when I researched this film; horrific images, scary music, etc. I am not saying that the information is wrong, I am saying that they are putting together "truth" as they want viewers to see it. Documentaries in my opinion should show facts and the entire story. They should leave it up to the viewer to form their own opinion. I do not plan on paying to see this documentary, however, if the film makers wish to invite me to a viewing I would go see it. I do not pay to see animal torture footage. For the cost of a $12 movie ticket I can donate that money to saving whales and do a lot more good with my money.
The best way to form an opinion is to get facts.
*Orca's were first captured for Marine parks and entertainment uses in the early 1960's
*1972 Marine Mammal Protection Act: stopped collection of wild caught marine mammals including all whales. The exception to this is if the whale (or other marine mammal) is injured they are allowed to capture, rehabilitate, and released back into the wild when well. On a few rare occasions rescued whales have been deemed 'non-releasable' and permission was granted to keep them in captivity. The United States government strictly regulates wild captures.
*The majority of Orcas in captivity were born in captivity, there are only a few of the wild caught ones left.
*Whales and other large marine mammals seen in theme parks of most industrialized countries are born in captivity and shipped between institutions for breeding or trade.
*Countries like Japan and a few other small newly rich nations still capture Live Wild Cetaceans for entertainment purposes.
*Most animals live longer in captivity, whales are the exception. Whales live an average of ten years less in captivity then in the wild. There have been a few exceptions to this that have lived longer.
*Whales can not be out of the water for more than a few minutes because of their size. The whales own weight crushes it's internal organs without the buoyancy of the water. Orcas are the best adapted to this as some species, like the 'Transient Orcas', hunt seals and other animals on shorelines by flinging themselves out of the water to catch their dinner. The Orcas in captivity, however, are fish eating 'Resident Orcas' that in the wild, never leave the water.
*All species of whales migrate thousands of miles every year from feeding to breeding to birthing waters. They all travel in large family groups and have an internal "compass" ability to navigate the vast oceans.
*Whales use sound to communicate over long distances.
*Whales are one of the most intelligent mammals on Earth.
*Orcas in the wild can recognize each other by their dorsal fins.
*Captive Orcas suffer from collapsed dorsal fins regularly due to small tanks.
*All captive Orcas and other whales are in small tanks.
*Captive bred whales are not releasable.
The whale exhibits are ALL to small. Animals this size should never be captive.
I asked the Beluga Whale keeper "where did you get these whales?" she answered honestly "They came from a marine park in Spain", I asked "were they caught wild or captive bred?" she said "I believe they were caught wild, but I am not positive." I asked "do you think their tank is too small?" and "why do you work here?" she answered "yes all the enclosures are too small for captive animals but I work here because I love them and want to know I did my best to give them a good life". She did not know how they had been shipped to California. The Belugas were in a tiny tank, bobbing up and down at the waters edge. In the wild they exhibit this behavior at air holes when trapped by sea ice. This should never be year round behavior.
The Orca exhibit was even more horrifying for me. Over a dozen orcas in a small back tank circling and circling round and round. The only way I can describe it is to compare it to us humans.
The Orcas tank size is equivalent to a human being locked into a studio apartment, every day a "trainer" opens your front door to let you into your slightly bigger patio to perform a dance routine they taught you while blasting music. You do this in front of all your neighbors, whom you do not know. At the end you are given a cookie and locked back into your small one room apartment until you are called upon to perform again.
The documentary trailer for "Blackfish" puts a lot of emphasis on SeaWorld Florida's Orca Tilikum who killed his trainer in 2010. Some say killed, others say eaten, some say played with too roughly. What is important to note is whether you consider this type of entertainment right or wrong, ALL these trainers believe they are spreading their love for whales and whale conservation. There is not an animal trainer or keeper on the planet who would ever blame the animal for their death. These horrible incidents are NOT the animals fault....ever.
The truth is these parks are both good and evil. You have to decide if that's an acceptable ratio or not. Does the conservation half of SeaWorld make up for the entertainment money making side?
The conservation programs rescue injured turtles, sharks and other species; nurture them back to health, release them back to the wild, or provide long term care. The side that educates the public on the importance of our oceans and the need to respect all species and keep our oceans clean.
Is it hypocritical to consider yourself a wildlife conservation organization when the other side is all about making money by providing entertainment? People riding whales and dolphins and doing tricks. Comedy shows with sea lions dressed in costumes. Shows with loud music and funny punch lines but not a single mention of how to save and protect these same animals? Roller coaster between animal exhibits, etc.?
Now let's talk numbers:
*SeaWorld Busch Entertainment Corporation spends an average of ONE Million dollars per year on Conservation. The rest of their conservation money comes from donations.
*SeaWorld Busch Entertainment Corporation averages an annual profit of over FOUR Million dollars. This is profit after the multi-million dollar salaries are paid and cost of running all the enterprises has been considered.
An interesting read of how the numbers break down can be found at http://cetaceaninspiration.wordpress.com/2011/11/18/seaworld-and-conservation/
My concern about the documentary is this. When people get fired up without all the facts they tend to take action that results in bad consequences.
After the first 'Free Willy' movie came out people demanded that these captive whales be freed. The result is that some were. The most famous was Keiko. Keiko had played the role of 'Free Willy", he had been captured as a baby near Iceland and lived his entire life in captivity with humans until the demand for his release finally got him released back into the wild. This is where the story splits and as usual there are two versions of every story.
The happy version, tells of how his trainers taught him how to fish and take care of himself in the wild. It tells of how he happily swam with pods of his own kind. There are stories of him coming up and saying hello to fishing boats. The end of this story has him dying of pneumonia at a very old age off the coast of Iceland after living out the rest of his life happy and free.
The darker version of Keiko's story starts the same but takes a different twist. It tells of him looking in other whale pods for the whales he grew up with, going pod to pod searching for his family. Instead of saying hello to fishing boats, this version says he was begging for fish because he was hungry and associated humans with how to eat. This sad tale says he starved to death never fully having been able to fend for himself.
No one can tell you which is closer to the truth. The whales may be black and white but the stories are not.
Do Your research!
Make Informed Decisions!
We need to be voices for those who can not speak for themselves. The most dangerous "Killer" Animal On Earth Is HUMAN!
Now Go! Get Informed! Keep An Open Mind and let's start protecting our wildlife for their sake, NOT for our amusement. I will not be back to any place that keeps whales ever again. I went with questions and an open mind. It was a learning experience I will never forget.
If I could make changes I would make it so all current whales in captivity could be kept for their lifespan. I would require larger tanks and circular swimming tracks to give the illusion of longer swims and lessen tank health issues. I would discontinue ALL breeding. I would maintain the 'No Wild Capture' law. Most of all, no one would ever be allowed to ride a whale again. Let's show their natural beauty not use them as circus performers for human entertainment.
Remember One Person CAN Make A Positive Difference! Let's Make An Educated One Too!