Orcas Belong In the Ocean

Dean J. Koepfler / MCT

If SeaWorld is sincere about protecting the ocean, it needs to free the whales

Staff Editorial

For 50 years SeaWorld Entertainment has educated and entertained millions of parkgoers in a dozen amusement parks across the U.S., including tourist magnet SeaWorld San Diego.

The company has been active in conservation. Marine biologists have flocked to its 12 amusement parks to study, rehabilitate and rescue more than 22,000 animals, including manatees, dolphins and sea turtles.

Everyone loved Shamu.

But a California lawmaker who represents parts of Santa Monica and Malibu was stirred into action after seeing filmmaker Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s Blackfish, a documentary that focused on the death of trainer Dawn Brancheau.

The 40-year-old drowned after Tilikum dragged her underwater during a live show. It was the third death involving the captive bull orca.

Behind the music and anthropomorphized acts was a violent wild animal that wasn’t supposed to be held captive.

It prompted Assemblyman Richard Bloom to introduce legislation that would ban orca performances in California theme parks. SeaWorld San Diego houses ten of the company’s 23 whales in captivity.

Critics, whose numbers have swelled after watching the documentary, argue that corporate profits have taken precedence over SeaWorld’s altruistic mission.

We agree. Capturing a mammal meant to roam in large open spaces is bad enough. Endangering human lives for the sake of entertainment makes it worse.