Whales in Captivity

KILLER-WHALES-2
exploitainment / SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment has attracted millions with its popular killer whale shows. As it celebrates its 50th anniversary, the company faces growing activism and opposition to orcas captured in the wild. The death of a trainer, and controversial documentaries, have spurred the action. / MCT Campus
Exploitainment / SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment has attracted millions with its popular killer whale shows. As it celebrates its 50th anniversary, the company faces growing activism and opposition to orcas captured in the wild. The death of a trainer, and controversial documentaries, have spurred the action. / MCT Campus

 

Moved by a documentary, an assemblyman targets the practice of capturing orcas for entertainment

By Chelsea Ybanez

The state legislature is reviewing a bill that would prohibit capturing and breeding orcas for entertainment purposes.

California assemblyman Richard Bloom introduced the bill after the documentary Blackfish was released.

The 2012 film criticizes treatment of orcas by SeaWorld, where trainer Dawn Brancheau was killed by one in Florida in 2010.

SeaWorld San Diego has four orcas that were captured from the wild.  The orca is the largest member of the dolphin family.

“These beautiful creatures are much too large and intelligent to be confined in small, concrete pens for their entire lives,” Bloom said.

A spokesperson for SeaWorld questioned the validity of the bill. The park, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, hired lobbyists to gain supporters and lessen the chances of it passing.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer said he fears the bill will affect the city’s economy because SeaWorld “[draws] thousands of tourists to San Diego.”

In addition, the company pays a $14 million lease and employs more than 4,000 people during its popular summer months.

Despite the documentary, SeaWorld made $1.46 billion in revenue in 2013. In the past three years, $70 million has been used to care for the orcas and maintain state-of-the-art tanks.

But there are still 54 orcas in captivity around the world, where unfamiliar noises, daily routines and limited space can lead to aggression.

There have been more than 100 incidents of attacks on trainers in marine parks since 1967.

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SeaWorld alone has more than 30 reported incidents, two that resulted in death.

To ensure safety, trainers now have restricted contact with orcas.

Close proximity does allow scientists to research the endangered species.

SeaWorld has published over 30 studies about orca metabolism, vocalization and life history, all contributing to protecting them in the wild.

 

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