Demand Humane Facilities for Endangered Marine Mammals in Aquariums

Sea World is not having a good week.

With the upcoming July 26 release of the documentary film Blackfish, Sea World hired a publicity company and issued a press release to preempt the film’s unflattering exposure of Sea World’s inhumane treatment of killer whales (Orcinus orca).

This is a rare move for a corporation – and the filmmakers as well as orca researchers have responded to Sea World’s media statement.

Highlights of Sea World’s disingenuous rebuttal:
    •    Collapsed-fin syndrome, observed in almost all captive male orcas and some females, occurs very infrequently in most wild orca populations. Blackfish shows Sea World trainers telling audiences that 25% of wild orcas exhibit collapsed dorsal fins.
    •    Sea World explains that they separate captive-bred calves from their mothers before weaning only when it is the calf’s safety and longevity is in danger because its mother rejected it. In the wild, calf rejection by a mother is virtually nonexistent and orcas have their first calves when they are 13-16 years of age. In contrast, Sea World breeds its females as early as 5-6 years old – an age where most females haven’t yet learned proper social behavior or how to mother a calf, and may ultimately reject and injure their calves.

Is it fair for Sea World to exploit these endangered animals for profit while making their audiences believe they are champions of conservation?

Photo credit: Dogwoof

Dear Mr. Maddy,

We, the undersigned, as members of the entertainment-consuming public, are asking that your member organizations hold themselves to a higher standard of welfare for marine mammals in captivity, particularly those that are endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

A corporation such as Sea World must be issued a permit by the federal government before it can take an endangered marine mammal for the purposes of exhibition. But to maintain the public's trust with the well-being of marine mammals in their care, the federal government requires that corporations be in line with regulations calling not only for humane captivity that does not present any unnecessary risks to the health and welfare of marine mammals, but to comply with Section 2 of the Endangered Species Act in the case of endangered marine mammals.

Sea World put itself on the defensive recently with the impending release of a documentary that exposes its practices with killer whales – close confinement, severed social groups, and other physically and psychologically taxing conditions – issues only previously rumored but not confirmed until recently. Understandably, the viewing public will be upset at the life that captive killer whales are subjected to.

The public believes in the AZA's mission of conservation for public enjoyment and environmental preservation. Please see that the AZA's member organizations maintain the public's trust in carrying out the missions of conservation by captivity.

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