One simple fact Sea World cannot refute

June 23, 2015
Killer whales belong in the open ocean.

Ever since CNN broadcast the documentary Blackfish,  Sea World's public relations department has inundated social media and television advertising with a campaign defending itself.  The onslaught comes in waves, peaking just before the network repeats the program.

The campaign is most obvious on Twitter where the company posts comments often several times a day, defending its practice in the care and display of killer whales or highlighting some incident where Sea World did some good in the world like participating in the rescue of a stranded or injured sea creature.

Almost every one of their posts, at least the ones involving whales, attracts a wave of comments from the folks who want to set those whales free or at least stop Sea World from holding them.  It's like the lines from the Buffalo Springfield song "For What It's Worth" "… singing songs and carrying signs,  mostly say hooray for our side …"

Sea World also responds to every criticism the company receives pointing to the positives but in the process often shading the truth and even lying outright; The back and forth into sometimes minute detail tends to bury the underlying problem in a quagmire of claims and counter claims. The public relations department writes about what the whales are fed, how they respond to sunlight and to noise; Sea World says it doesn't separate mothers from offspring yet proof exists that they do. For every criticism there is a response and for every response there is a new criticism.

My favorite by far is this one defending the enclosures:
Please read this information on how our killer whale habitats are some of the largest in the world: http://bit.ly/1GiI0I3 ."

Consider the word "habitat" for a moment.  Natural killer whale habitat covers all oceans and how Sea World can say any of their "habitats" compares with that is simply ludicrous. Of course, they are referring to habitats for captives, but that's what is wrong, and that's where the basis for Sea World criticism lies.

The company can attack its critics in excruciating detail and the critics can respond in kind but nothing anybody says can change the fact that Sea World confines huge whales in what amounts to swimming pools. No matter what they feed, no matter how good the care is, no matter how healthy they are, the whales, who normally range over thousands of miles and swim in depths measured in fathoms instead of feet, live their lives in what comparatively amounts to a human's back-yard pool.

That is the simple truth of what is wrong with Sea World and nothing the company does or says is ever going to justify that tragic practice.


October 27, 2013
A killer whale swims past the mouth of Columbia Bay in Alaska's Prince William Sound.

It's taken a while to come around to the right frame of mind to watch the movie "Blackfish."  It was bound to be upsetting.  It's about Sea World and captive killer whales, focused largely on the death of Sea World trainer Dawn Brancheau in February 2010.  After seeing the movie I am more convinced than ever that Sea World, or anyone else for that matter, should be shut down and never again allowed to hold a whale in captivity, Having read about the whales and Sea World and participating in the effort to stop them from capturing whales in Alaska's Prince William Sound, I sort of knew what to expect, but to tell the truth the situation is far worse than I had thought.

To begin with I  have to take back what I have said about the trainers after watching several former trainers in tears during the movie discussing how the whales are treated.  What came across was that for the most part the trainers were very idealistic young people enthralled with the whales and the idea of working with them, but who knew little about their natural history.

To compound that problem Sea World management consistently lied to them or misled them or just flat didn't tell them much about the whales.  And, the new employees had no reason not to trust what the management was telling them, Sea World managers were supposed to be the experts. One striking segment focused on the lies in the Sea World spiel that the young people had to give customers thinking it was all true.  One that stood out in the movie was that the whales only live to be 25 or 30 years old. That is the extreme age for whales in captivity and few of Sea World's captives live even that long; the average is more like 11 years.  In the wild males live into their 70s and females can reach 100.

From the movie it is obvious these trainers whom  I had expressed no sympathy for when they get batted around by the whales are almost as captive to Sea World management as the whales are. They aren't told about incidents with whales that are often termed accidents. They are fed false information and lured into believing they are safe in the water with the ocean's top-level predator. They also weren't told about specific whales with a history of attacking trainers.  According to the movie, there have been at least 70 attacks in Sea World parks over the years, none of which the new trainers were told about.

Sea World went so far as to blame Dawn Brancheau for the whale's attack that killed her, claiming the whale had pulled her down by a pony tail in her hair which she shouldn't have had. According to the movie, autopsy results showed she was first pulled into the water by her arm.

Given all that, I have to pull back from blaming trainers and having no sympathy for them.  Granted they should have learned more about the whales before they took the job but when I was that age I can totally see myself lured by the temptation to jump into that water, too.

At the end in the credits it said Sea World was invited to be interviewed and the offer was refused every time. In an ad for the movie on CNN, a Sea World written response said the movie was entirely one-sided.  For one thing they could have presented their side, for a second, to my mind there is only one side to this issue.

Something else about the movie was bothersome.  In all the arguments I had with Sea World people they often hauled out the tired claim that what they do advances the science around killer whales. Not one mention was made in the movie about any scientific knowledge Sea World has contributed. Sea World science claims have always been suspect as just a verbal front for the true mission of making money off killer whales. As a matter of fact the management actually concealed what they knew about killer whale behavior from their employees.

The Occupational Health and Safety Agency investigated Sea World after the death and the agency's eventual ruling was that trainers in the future had to be separated from the whales by a barrier. At the time the movie was made, Sea World had appealed that decision.

The OSHA decision is fine and a step in the direction of safety for the trainer.  Now all we need to do is address the safety of the whales. Overall you leave the movie convinced that animals used to ranging over thousands of miles of ocean do not belong in concrete swimming pools.

#blackfish, #seaworld, #killer whales

Trolling SeaWorld

I have read research that states males can live to be 70 and
females to 100. I first photographed that fellow with the wavy
 fin in 1977 and a friend photographed him last summer (2015).
 That's 39 years. It's not too difficult to imagine him an
18-year-old teenager in 1977 which would make him older
than SeaWorld. Notice they're swimming toward the boat.
May 27, 2916

Every time CNN shows the movie "Blackfish" SeaWorld fires up the PR team and floods Twitter with
their side of the story in 140-or-fewer-letter snippets. The foolishness of it is I think they have it on some kind of autodial because they seldom change, just the same old defenses with their unique corporate spin. The best part may be that it doesn't take nearly 140 characters to refute their justifications for keeping whales in captivity.

The only good side of it is trolling them and they caught me in a good mood tonight. At first I wondered about all the tweets and then I remembered "Blackfish" was on tonight. It only took a glass of wine or two to wind it up. Here are a few examples of what I am talking about:

SeaWorld @SeaWorld Wondering what it takes to be a killer whale trainer? 

@tjonesak @SeaWorld a crass disregard for killer whales' quality of life

SeaWorld @SeaWorld We have received a number of questions asking why we chose not to appear in Blackfish.
 @tjonesak You had your chance to respond when the film was made. Kibitzing after the fact is so much sour grapes. How's your stock?

SeaWorld @SeaWorld We love our killer whales & want everyone to know the truth about our world-class care
@tjonesak @SeaWorld You have to wonder how they can function at all in the wild without your world-class care. Oh, wait, they don't need it.

SeaWorld @SeaWorld Independent research shows SeaWorld’s killer whales live as long as wild killer whales
 @tjonesak @SeaWorld You haven't been in business as long as some killer whales live in the wild.

There's a lot of history involved here and for me it dates back to 1983, earlier if you count my first encounters with killer whales in the late 1970s.

Here is a photo of the same whale made in 2015 and posted by my son on
his facebok page. the whale is AE-14 in the Prince William Sound populaton.
The links below will document most of the history. Each of those stories contains more links so you can go as deeply into this history with the whales as you want to go. There's this, SeaWorld, if you are watching, if you don't remember my name, I bet you remember Tim Jones et al v. Secretary of Commerce.

It gets old posting responses to the same tired defenses SeaWorld puts up every time "Blackfish" comes on, but it needs to be done, over and over again. I am getting old, but there are some young people out there already picking up the flag and fighting on (read, yes, you ). You are awesome.

The cool thing tonight was I picked up a couple more followers. Almost 40 now, lol. Not quite Lady Gaga numbers yet but I have a few more years left.

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