Yesterday the Vancouver Aquarium announced that it is giving up its fight to keep dolphins and whales in captivity. Canada is now only one marine park away from being free of captive dolphins and whales! And it’s because of thousands of voices like ours, who spoke up on behalf of those who are unable to! Now only Marineland Canada in Ontario has captive dolphins and whales.
In May 2017, the Vancouver Park Board, voted to prevent the aquarium from bringing in any new whales and dolphins, after commissioners said they were concerned about the ethics of keeping the animals in captivity. At this time there were only 3 cetaceans left at the facility: Helen (a pacific white sided dolphin), Chester (a false killer whale) and Daisy (a harbour porpoise). Helen, Chester and Daisy were allowed to remain at the facility but were no longer a part of the shows.
Since the park board vote in 2017, two of the aquarium’s three remaining cetaceans have died, Chester and Daisy, leaving only Helen, the pacific white sided dolphin.
Helen, a pacific white sided dolphin, the only remaining captive cetacean at the Vancouver Aquarium
Helen was purchased from Enoshima Aquarium in Japan, a facility known for sourcing it’s captive cetaceans from the infamous Dolphin Drive hunt in Taiji. Helen’s fate has yet to be decided. According to CEO John Nightingale there are two available options: transporting her to a new facility or bringing in a companion animal, which means defying the park board. Neither of these choices are ideal.
Only 3 weeks until 2017/2018 Taiji Drive Hunt & Slaughter resumes again.
2017/2018 Drive Hunt Quota by species:
2017/2018 quota for the drive fishery in Taiji has been released. This quota allows for a take of 1,940 animals from nine species and has added two species to the list – rough-toothed dolphins & melon-headed whales.
In addition to drive hunt, rough tooths and melon headed have been added to the hand harpoon quota in two prefectures – Wakayama and Okinawa. In Wakayama, 30 melon-headed whales can be taken, while in Okinawa, 13 rough-tooths and 60 melon-headed are allowed via this method.
Including both hand-harpoon and drive hunting, a total of 33 rough-tooths and 190 melon-headed whales have been added to the overall small cetacean quota in Japan.
When it comes to the Southern Resident Killer Whales (SRKW) a year has made all the difference in the world. Last year at this time, we were all celebrating a remarkable baby boom, with 8 new orca calves over the previous 12 months & another new baby was added in January 2016, for a total of 9.
However, if 2015 was considered the baby boom year, then 2016 was the exact opposite with a total of 6 orca deaths recorded during the calendar year. Then the announcement on January 2, 2017 of J2 Granny’s presumed death as of December 31, 2016. J2 Granny was last seen by the Center for Whale Research on October 12, 2016.
In 2016 we saw the loss of L95, J55, J14, J28, J54, & J34
J14 Samish – left with daughters J37 & J40
J28 Polaris and then her baby son J54 Dipper.
J34 Doublestuf with mom J22
“The SRKW population is now estimated to be 78 as of 31 December 2016, and J pod contains only 24 individuals plus the wandering L87. To whom will he attach now? Who will lead the pod into the future? Is there a future without food? What will the human leaders do?” Ken Balcomb – Center for Whale Research
We are now racing the extinction of the SRKW’s – What it is going to take…
Heightened awareness and continued education
Sustainable fisheries and healthy wild Pacific Salmon stocks
Continued research into understanding where the whales go in the winter & what they do
Improved technologies for boating
Continued education for younger generations-the next group of Salish Sea ambassadors!!
Ongoing efforts to foster & promote ethical boating etiquette amongst all user groups: fishing – both private and commercial, kayaking, sailing, seaplanes, cruise ships, freighters, ferries, etc.
What can you DO to help:
Let Prime Minister Justin Trudeau know what his approval of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion means for the endangered SRKW’s – say no to the Kinder Morgan pipeline and say yes to saving Orca’s
Please visit the David Suzuki Foundation – find your MP and send a message to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Catherine McKenna (Minister of Environment and Climate Change) & Jim Carr (Minister of Natural Resources)
Her loss is made even more tragic by the additional loss of her most recent calf J54. At less than a year old and still nursing, his survival is unlikely without his mother to feed him. He was last seen on October 23 and is now presumed deceased. This brings the year’s losses up to 4 (L95, J14, J28 and J54) and the population back down to 80.
More then ever, we need to look toward more fish as the primary solution in saving the endangered Southern Resident Killer Whale Population.
It is fairly simple … No Fish No Blackfish
What can you DO to help:
Get Involved – volunteer for a shoreline cleanup in your area – tell organization why support or why you do not – write to your local government representative (send letters and emails)
This past August was the first time I had the opportunity to see Orca’s in the wild and I have to say there is no other experience quite like it! It truly was an exhilarating, left me with the best natural high and a permanent smile for days!
I’ll be honest I have been to Sea World – a few times as a child and young adult. If documentaries like Blackfish and the Cove had been available back then I would never had made those trips. I do not regret those experiences, although I do wish there had been someone to say to me or teach me from a young age that these highly intelligent mammals do not belong in a concrete tank swimming in circles day in and day out, performing tricks in order to be fed. While I was growing up there was no such thing as social media – there was no Facebook, twitter or Instagram – what was a blog – if you wanted to write down your thoughts you did it in a journal that no one ever read. I owned my first computer at 18 and that was when I signed up for my first email address. Now it is important to use every possible outlet available to educate today’s youth about the captive marine mammal industry. The end of Sea World, Marineland Canada and other such marine parks, will only end when the demand for it ends. If we teach the youth of today that it is wrong to keep Orcas, dolphins and whales, etc in tanks then hopefully the demand for it will slowly dissipate and we will one day see the tanks of Sea World and Marineland Canada emptied.
Now (with the help of social media) I have the ability to enlighten others about the captive industry, while also making them aware that there are better options available to view these marine mammals in the wild and on their own terms. I’ve had the opportunity to experience Orca’s in the wild – I’m pretty sure my next trip will be to experience dolphins in the wild. My only experience with wild dolphins to date was during my time in Taiji as a Cove Guardian, so seeing wild dolphins is definitely at the top of my bucket list!
Here are a few videos from my experience with Transient Orca’s off the coast of Victoria, BC this past summer. While these videos only offer you a short glimpse into my experience of whale watching hopefully they will inspire you to experience Orca’s in the wild for yourself.
It has been over a year since I left Taiji and a year since I have managed to write a blog. I’ve been recently trying to get back into writing and was not quite sure how to come up with a good post, since it has been a significant amount of time since my last one. I’m sure I could come up with numerous reasons as to why I haven’t written anything as of late. But this is what I’ll tell you …
Being in Taiji has an incredible effect on you. At times it’s hard to describe the emotions you feel and sometimes I’m certain the only people that truly understand the lasting effect of being in Taiji, are my fellow Cove Guardians. It is still one of the best things of done, one of my proudest moments and I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.
When I first arrived home from Taiji the first thing I did was sleep for almost 18 hours straight! Perhaps from the long travel time it took to actually get home .. I’ve never been one to sleep on airplanes! But more so because it was incredibly hard to go back to your hotel room every night in Taiji and attempt to shut off your mind. You have early mornings, which I’m used to being a morning person, You also have long days, depending on how fast or short the drive hunt is. But at the end of the day the horrific scenes and atrocities you witness seem to replay on a continuous loop in your mind. The dreadful scenes at the Cove are not something that can simply be unseen at the end of the day. Not to mention that after witnessing a slaughter or live capture you need to go through all of the images you shot that day and pick the best (i.e., the images showing the atrocious scenes of the day) so they can be posted to social media. For me I have to say its not just the images in my mind but it’s also the sounds you hear – the banger poles, the killers yelling & laughing, the screams of the dolphins fighting for their lives and the sound of a dolphin taking it’s last breathe before the eerie silence that tells you the slaughter is complete.
Once I was home I was eager to start posting on my blog and it seemed as though I had many things to say and share about my time in Taiji. It was easy to write about my experiences of the blue cove days to the red cove days to monitoring the captives at Dolphin Base and the Taiji Harbour Pens as well. It was not hard to come up with blog posts and the words sometimes seem to simply write themselves. After that, it was as if I didn’t know what to say or perhaps ran out of things to say, essentially the tap ran dry and the words were not flowing as they did before.
So I decided to take a step back for awhile – maybe longer that I anticipated. Now another dolphin hunting season in Taiji is about to come to an end and I am finally writing my first post in over in a year. I still follow the Cove Guardian campaign throughout the season – posting and sharing updates on Twitter and Facebook. I talk about the Cove Guardian campaign every chance I get and my two copies of the Cove documentary are passed out frequently to friends, family and staff members. I even wear my Cove Guardian t-shirt every Friday, as we do casual Fridays at my office and I like to refer to them as Cove Guardian Fridays! After almost two years of Cove Guardian Fridays I finally had a patient ask me where I got my shirt and he was surprised to find out that I had made the trip to Taiji to join the Cove Guardians.
Now the the words seem to be flowing and I once again find myself with the eagerness to write and continue informing people on the continuous atrocities that still happen at the cove. The fact that marine parks, Sea World and swim with the dolphin programs fuel the dolphin drive hunts every year. In the end some people may turn a blind eye to what continues to happen in Taiji, while others will continue to stand watch at the Cove and those people are the dedicated volunteers from all over the world who volunteer their time to join the Cove Guardians.
Please check out the video below to know more about what the Cove Guardians do on the ground while in Taiji
Melissa Seghal and her Sea Shepherd Cove Guardian team highlight the daily atrocities that occur against much beloved, intelligent and social dolphins in Taiji, Japan for six months of each year.
If you are familiar with the Cove Guardian campaign in Taiji, then you already know that a Blue day is one the best things to experience as a Cove Guardian and one of the best days for dolphins passing by the waters in Taiji.
I was lucky enough to experience four Blue Cove days in a row, during my time in Taiji. Two of these days the 12 banger boats did leave Taiji harbor to hunt for dolphins, but on these days they were unable to find or successfully drive in any dolphins! These are the best days … seeing the boats come back to harbor one by one without any dolphins is truly a great feeling! What better to do when the boats come back, then to greet them in Taiji harbor with the Sea Shepherd flag. It is our way of letting them know we are not going anywhere and we will not stop until the slaughter ends! Besides a Blue day means no murdering or stealing of wild and free dolphins!
Proudly holding the flag in Taiji Harbor on a Blue Cove Day
My Cove Sisters, Jade, Michelle, Dorian, Fran and I, proudly waving the flag as a banger boat (in the background) returns to harbor empty handed!
The two other Blue Cove days experienced were the result of rain and bad weather altogether. With rough seas and wind, the boats did not leave Taiji harbor for two consecutive days. While these Blue days are still great to experience, the unfortunate part of the bad weather is the many captive dolphins in Taiji Harbor and Dolphin Base who have no escape from the wind and rough seas. These dolphins need to use the majority of their strength and energy to fight the rough current and waves, to keep from being tossed around into the sides of their sea pens.
Rough seas and high winds kept the banger boats in port today
We also clean up litter & debris on the beach while numerous police watch and video Cove Guardians
I took this video at Dolphin Base, in the pouring rain, while checking in on the captives. This should give you a sense of what the dolphins have to compete with during rough weather and having no escape from the floating sea prison. During my time in Taiji, Dolphin Base held, several bottlenose dolphins, false killer whales and several pacific white sided dolphins.
For the dolphins!
Proudly standing on the rocks of the infamous Cove
I’ve followed the Cove Guardian campaign Infinite Patience for a few years now. I’ve seen all the pictures posted and watched the livestream on multiple occasions. However, nothing prepares you for the first time you witness and go through a drive hunt and then slaughter. There really was no rest for me upon arriving in Taiji, the best way to describe it was first day first slaughter, second day second slaughter. I’ve included some of the photos posted to Cove Guardian facebook page, as well as a few of my own that have not been posted.
The first drive hunt and slaughter I experienced was December 14, 2013. Everyday is different in Taiji and this day was not what I was expecting at all and after this I learnt to have no expectations whatsoever. The first day I watched in in disbelief as the killing boats began to drive a small pod of bottlenose dolphins towards the cove, while in the distance the remaining killing boats were attempting to drive a second pod into the cove. There are no words to describe seeing the killing boats in drive formation, your heart literally sinks and you get a sick feeling, since you know what will happen next: captive selection or slaughter. The second pod were able to outsmart the killers and escape immanent death or life or imprisonment. The first pod unfortunately was not so lucky. I watched for hours as 3 bottlenose dolphins fought for their lives. On this first day I stood above the killing and watched in horror and disbelief at the same time as these dolphins continuously attempted to escape and breach behind the killing boats and skiffs, only to be literally ran over and redirected towards the cove. It was amazing to watch 3 bottlenose dolphins give the ruthless killers of Taiji a run for it. However in the end, 3 bottlenose dolphins were no match for the numerous killing boats and skiffs. When you see the nets drawn at the mouth of the cove, you know that fate of these dolphins is sealed. In the end, 1 dolphin was taken captive and placed in the Taiji harbor pens while the remaining two were slaughtered. Why would the killers fight so hard for so few dolphins? Well the answer is bottlenose dolphins taken captive mean big money for the Taiji fisherman … on average a trained dolphin can sell for up to $200,000-$300,000 … and that there is why these ruthless killers fought so hard for only 3 dolphins.
Last moments together before slaughter & imprisonment
Netted off in the cove, last moments together
Skiff carrying two dolphin bodies under the gray tarp
New captive dolphin being place in Taiji harbor pens
My second day on the ground in Taiji, was much different from the first other than it ended with a slaughter once again. As the killing boats left Taiji harbor, a pod was spotted relatively quickly. This typically means the killing boats have been tipped off from other local fisherman as to where the dolphins are. This day, December 15, 2013 would be a pod of 30-40 striped dolphins who lost their lives for human consumption and none were seen as fit for captivity. This would also be the first time I stood on the shore of the infamous cove. It was a surreal feeling standing at the cove for the first, but even more so surreal that I was about to witness yet another slaughter right from the shore of the cove. This was also the first time I saw the panic, frustration and fear of the dolphins driven into the cove. As I sat on the rocks of the cove trying to take as many pictures as possible to document this drive, I heard the last few breathes these dolphins would ever take as they were pushed farther under the tarps of the killing cove. It is beyond heartbreaking to see this happen and know that you’re only weapon is a camera and a photograph. There are some things you just don’t forget from a slaughter or perhaps are unable to forgot … the sounds of the banger boats banging on their poles as they drive the dolphins into the cove, the sound of a dolphin taking its last breathes and the sound of a dolphin thrashing furiously in an attempt to escape death and then the eerie silence that tells you the slaughter is done and that yet another pod has lost its life at the hands of the Taiji fisherman.
The fate of these striped dolphins were sealed as the opening to killing cove was closed with nets
Striped dolphin, scared & confused, spy hopping to make sense about what is happening
Dolphins will often attempt to swim through the nets in an attempt to escape.
As I said before, each day is entirely different in Taiji and each day your heart seems to break into a million little pieces all over again. At times you feel utterly helpless, knowing that these dolphins are within your reach, so close to you, yet so far away, but also knowing that the only thing you can do is to pick your camera and take the best photos you can. The world needs to see and realize that Taiji has not stopped killing dolphins since the release of the documentary The Cove. The only thing that has changed is how they attempt to hide it, cover it up and prevent the Cove Guardians from documenting it.
I’ve seen multiple people comment on social media about the Cove Guardians doing more to prevent the slaughter, that is cutting nets, or other direct action. What everyone needs to understand is that as a Cove Guardian you are on the ground in Japan and must abide by Japanese laws. Cove Guardians are constantly followed while in Taiji and when I say constantly I mean from the moment you enter Taiji until the moment you leave there are police around you and following you on foot and by car.
Myself and fellow Cove Guardian, Michelle, outside of Fisherman’s Union, notice the 3 policemen watching us.
It does not serve any purpose to cut nets within the cove and free one pod of dolphins, only to wind up in a Japanese jail, being even more helpless than you were before. While cutting nets seems like a simple and easy solution, it really does nothing in the end, it may free one pod of dolphins, but what about the day after that and the following days. This is the reason that the Cove Guardian campaign in called Operation Infinite Patience, it was not intended to be a one year campaign.
The daily grind of being a Cove Guardian, is challenging as it is a roller-coaster of emotions. But I will go back to do it all over again for only one reason … for the dolphins!
As a Cove Guardian, it was not only my responsibility to report on and document the daily drive hunt and slaughter, but to also monitor the daily activity at Dolphin Base. For me, Dolphin Base is one of the saddest places to see, like the Taiji Harbor pens that hold captive dolphins, it is basically a floating sea prison.
The next three photos give you an idea of what Dolphin Base looks like from left to right. When I say floating sea prison I really mean it. There are a total of 9 pens floating behind the Dolphin Resort Hotel in Taiji that hold captive dolphins and whales, which also happens to be down the road from the Whale Museum which also holds many captive dolphins and whales.
Far left pens, the one in front held captive bottlenose dolphins and false killer whales. The pen in the back with the black tarp once held beluga whales obtained in a trade with Russia for bottlenose dolphins.
The middle sea pen, is the largest of all the pens at Dolphin, and is also an entertainment pen. During my time in Taiji there was 5 bottlenose dolphins in this pen.
On the right there are 6 captive pens, which held bottlenose dolphins and pacific white sided dolphins.
An idea of what the dolphins go through when the ocean is rough and windy.
I had previously seen photos of dolphin base prior to my visit to Taiji, but once again nothing really prepares you for the experience of seeing this with your own eyes. The first time I walked up to Dolphin Base, my heart broke seeing the conditions these dolphins are forced to live in day and day out. You realize just how small these captive pens are, how many dolphins are crammed into them and you continue see the dolphins listlessly float at the surface or continuously swim in the same direction and breach in the exact same spot over and over again. To me this cries out boredom, depression and frustration. Not being able to leave, not being able to fend for yourself and being completely dependent upon the trainers who were also responsible for the rest of your family members being slaughtered. These dolphins to some people may be considered the “lucky” ones, since they were chosen by the killers and trainers for the captive entertainment industry and avoided slaughter. But honestly what is better death or life of imprisonment? I leave with this question and some photos which I took of the course of my time as a Cove Guardian at Dolphin Base of the poor innocent souls destined to live out their lives performing tricks for dead fish.
False Killer whale – notice how you can the ribs of this whale from malnourishment
Bottlenose dolphins – on the dolphin breaching you can again see the rib cage of this dolphin
Bottlenose dolphin being ignored while trainers prepare dead fish that this dolphin will have to perform tricks correctly for in order to eat.
Pacific white sided dolphin performing being conditioned or trained for your entertainment, but for them simply to just get some dead fish
Spy Hoping to see what is going on in the other captive pens. The bottlenose dolphins behind this pacific white sided dolphin were being fed/trained at this point.
Bottlenose dolphin sent by a trainer to the opposite side of this pen to hold this position until told otherwise by a trainer. Heartbreaking.
Pacific White Sided Dolphin continuously breached in this corner of the pen, along with the 3-4 others in this sea prison
After reading this post and seeing these photos I hope that all of you will think twice before visiting Sea World, Marineland Canada or any other similar Dolphinarium or swim with dolphin program. Chances are that if you do go, these may be the dolphins you will see or ones that were also taken from their life of freedom in the ocean after having witnessed their family slaughtered. These dolphins are then broken in, conditioned or trained to perform tricks for food. Please do not support captivity! Dolphins are dying in Taiji to entertain you and many brave people are fighting to put an end to these atrocities. If you support the captive dolphin industry they you are also supporting the dolphin slaughter in Taiji. Instead please be a voice for the voiceless!
For the dolphins and whales of Taiji held captive and those that were slaughtered needlessly.
My journey to Taiji had been a year in the making. After consistently following the Cove Guardian campaign, in December of last year I made the commitment to join in the fight to be a voice for the dolphins. Becoming a Cove Guardian was an honor.
After my 30 hour trip of planes and airports I arrived in Osaka, Japan. A little bit of a culture shock for me, having only travelled within North America. Landing in a foreign country where I did not speak the language was a challenge at first, but the Japanese people are amazingly friendly and helpful!
After spending my first night in Osaka, I had the daunting task of taking the train to Taiji. I’ve never been on a train before, so having to switch trains multiple times and not being able to communicate properly, left me feeling a little stressed and nervous. Luckily, by chance I managed to meet some fellow Cove Guardians on the train! What a sigh of relief this was, meeting the first of my new Cove Guardian family and not having to make the remainder of the trip on my own! Thanks to Clive, Michelle and Bator for making the train ride a little less stressful for me!
Taiji is exactly as described by Ric O’Barry in the documentary The Cove … A twilight zone … everywhere you look there is a painting, monument or writing on the sidewalks of dolphins and whales. If you didn’t know any better you would think Taiji loved dolphins and whales.
Nothing can really prepare you for the experience of being in Taiji and it is not something that can be easily be put into words either. I am sure that each and every Cove Guardian remembers the exact moment they first saw the infamous Cove. For me, the first time was a simple glance while passing by in a car. The sight of it almost takes your breathe away, one because it really is such a beautiful place and two because you instantly remember how many dolphins and whales have lost their lives at the hands of the Taiji fisherman there. The moment I actually set foot on the shore of the Cove is something I will never forget. I literally just stood there for a few moments taking it all in and in disbelief that I was actually there. Unfortunately my first time on the shore of the Cove was also the second time I would witness a drive in process and a pod of dolphins fight for their lives and eventually lose their life for the sole purpose of human consumption. The only thing that keeps you going in moments such as this, is to pick up your camera and start taking photos, since it is the only weapon you have in Taiji.
Witnessing a pod of dolphins spending their last moments together in fear, frustration, panic and hearing those last few breathes they take as they are pushed under the tarps of killing shore is utterly heartbreaking. But I take solace in the fact that without the Cove Guardians and Operation Infinite Patience the atrocities of the Cove would continue to go unnoticed and unreported to the world and many would not know the horrible secret Taiji attempts to hide. It is because of the Cove Guardians that there is and will continue to be a constant international spotlight on the daily atrocities that are occurring in Taiji and I am proud to have been apart of this campaign.
Proudly standing on the shore of the Infamous Cove
Sitting on the rocks of the Cove. Notice the fence and keep out sign, built to prohibit a direct view into the killing cove.
Beautiful sunrise at the Cove
Proudly holding the flag in Taiji harbor as the boats come back empty handed.
After I manage to go through about 8000 photos, I will post more detailed information of my time in Taiji as a Cove Guardian.
If you have any interest in joining the Cove Guardians on the ground in Taiji, do not hesitate, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and ask for an application. I promise you that it will be an experience of a lifetime and being surrounded by the passionate, like-minded people involved with this amazing campaign will be one of the best things you do. Take the journey to Taiji and be a voice for the voiceless!
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful citizens can change the world; indeed it’s the only that ever has.” Margaret Mead
With the recent release of the highly anticipated documentary, Blackfish, which provides a critical look at the family orientated Sea World’s treatment of whales, two other videos released on youtube provide further insight into Sea World’s treatment of the dolphins and whales.
Distressed Pilot Whale at Sea World: Sea World find itself under fire after trainers failed to help a distress pilot whale stuck on a slideout ledge for approximately 25 minutes. The video was caught on camera by an audience member, who has stated that his views of Sea World have been changed forever.
Peta released this statement after the release of the video: “Audiences should be horrified by every video taken inside SeaWorld,” PETA wrote in an emailed statement Monday. Whether they show a pilot whale stranded on a concrete ledge in front of a shocked crowd, an orca killing his trainer, or intelligent, sensitive whales forced to swim day in and day out in tiny circles for a reward of dead fish, these videos are a potent reminder that SeaWorld keeps marine mammals trapped in concrete tanks that bear no resemblance to their habitat in the wild, with no room in which to swim, no family groups, and no stimulation.”
Take a look at the video below and draw your own conclusions on the treatment of whales and dolphins at Sea World.
Dolphin Escapes Tank at Sea World: During a public feeding of the dolphins at Sea World, one dolphin jumped out of the tank and landed on the concrete. “I do not have children, but this is not something I would want them to see on a family vacation.” – David Kirby (deathatseaworld.com) Not only is a situation like this extrememly dangerous for the dolphin itself, as you can see in the video from the blood on the concrete, it is also an extremely dangerous situation for spectators. If a child or adult was nearby and had been injured when the dolphin jumped out of the tank, then I can assure you there would be a media storm covering this story.
If you are contmeplating or even planning a trip to Sea World in the near or distant to future, then consider this: Sea World is not a place for education on dolphins and whales. The daily shows at dolphin & whale stadium and Shamu stadium are simply that a show, designed to entertain and have absoltely no educational benefit. The dolphins and whales of Sea World and conditioned to perform tricks for your entertainment receiving dead fish as their reward and in no resemble the natural habits of a dolphin or whale in the wild.
“There is as much educational benefit in studying dolphins in captivity as there would be in studying human beings by only observing prisoners in solitary confinement.”. Jacques Cousteau
DEATH AT SEAWORLD “is a groundbreaking scientific examination that exposes the dark side of SeaWorld, America’s most beloved marine mammal park. From the tragic death of trainer Dawn Brancheau in 2010, to other, less-publicized violent incidents, journalist David Kirby puts these brutal animal-on-human attacks in context and explores the controversial and even lethal ramifications of keeping killer whales in captivity. It introduces the real people taking part in this debate, from former trainers turned animal rights activists to the men and women that champion SeaWorld and the captivity of whales. Kirby follows the story of Naomi Rose Ph.D., marine mammal scientist for The Humane Society of the United States and senior scientist for The Humane Society International, whose warnings against keeping killer whales in captivity fell on deaf ears. He also covers the media backlash, the eyewitnesses who come forward to challenge SeaWorld’s glossy image, and the groundbreaking OSHA vs. SeaWorld case. On May 30, 2012, the judge ruled on this case, stating that trainers performing with huge ocean predators need to be protected by physical barriers, or some other means providing the same level of safety. The strict standard could effectively prevent SeaWorld from ever allowing its trainers to get back into the water during shows with the whales.” (Source)
Thoughts on Death at Sea World:
With the upcoming release of the new documentary Blackfish, I decided to finally read Death at Sea World. Simply put, it is an inspiring, heartbreaking, thriller, that provides significant insight into the lives of Killer Whales in captivity. Kirby takes you through a gripping investigation that is hard to put down. The book in the end, is an eye opener to Shamu and the Dark Side of Killer Whales in Captivity.
The chapter entitled Capture, which is told from Tilikum’s perspective, is absolutely heartbreaking. It is hard not to view the capture of Tilikum as similar to that of a child being taken away from its mother at such a young age. Especially considering that male killer whales spend most of their time by their mother’s side from infancy through old age. While they may swim off for a few hours or days to mate with females from other pods, at the end of the day they always come back to their mother. As Kirby puts it, “in other words, male resident orcas are the planet’s ultimate mama’s boy.” Here is a little excerpt from the chapter “Suddenly you are snagged in another, smaller net. You cry out in shock and fear, calling for your mother. You feel the net being pulled through the water toward the boat. Your heart races and you surface to breathe, quickly and with difficulty. What is going on? Where is your mom? Then you hear her. You have never hear this wretched wail before: mournful, ragged, spiked with rage and terror. Now your other relative have joined the awful remonstration. You answer their panicked cries with your own chaotic vocalizations as you’re hauled from the water on a canvas sling.”
Interestingly enough, no killer whale had been reported to have killed a human in the wild, or even seriously attacked a human in the wild, and no killer whale had ever been known to be killed in a fight with another whale. All three of those things have happened in captivity
According to Kirby there are two vital questions:
1) Is captivity in an amusement park good for orcas: Is this the appropriate venue for killer whales to be held, and does it somehow benefit wild orcas and their ocean habitat, as industry claims?
2) Is orca captivity good for society: Is it safe for trainers and truly educational for a public that pays to watch the whales perform what critics say are animal tricks akin to circus acts?
Clearly my answer to these two questions is no, but what would your answer be?
After reading Death at Sea World, this what I can say with certainty: 1. I will continue my pledge to never visit Sea World or anything similar 2. I will be a voice for the voiceless by informing others of the brutal reality of captivity for Killer Whales and other cetaceans, 3. The only place I ever want to see Killer Whales is in their natural environment and thanks to David Kirby I hope to one day travel to Johnstone Strait and Telegraph Cove to do so.
That being said, I urge each of you to pick up Death at Sea World by David Kirby and sit down and read it. I guarantee you that it will completely change your outlook on Sea World and the Killer Whale captive entertainment industry. Secondly, if you haven’t already heard about the new documentary Blackfish, then view the trailer below and check for local screening times on the website http://blackfishmovie.com/