After the release of the thought provoking documentary “Blackfish,” directed by Gabriella Cowperthwaite, SeaWorld and many other marine based parks have faced a tremendous amount of heat.
The film focuses on the consequences of taking killer whales out of the ocean, and putting them in a tank for entertainment purposes. SeaWorld, which claims the animals are in the best care, has received countless messages through social media, demanding it end the shows and return the whales back to their natural habitat.
As the controversy hit society by storm, California State assembly member Richard Bloom sought out the opportunity to take matters into his own hands. On March 7, Bloom proposed the bill known as the “Orca Welfare and Safety Act.” The bill would make it illegal to hold the whales in captivity, or use them for entertainment. In addition, it would prohibit SeaWorld from breeding whales, and relieve them of their stressful, and some say painful, lives.
Previous trainers from SeaWorld, including John Hargrove and Samantha Berg, both decided to leave the park because Hargrove believed that the well-being of the whales was being compromised. Hargrove has mentioned that he feels putting 12,000-pound whales in a small pen for various reasons is unethical and must end. While Berg feels that seeing numerous animals die is simply not worth it. Furthermore, in 2010, the death of experienced trainer Dawn Brancheau caused more trainers to leave. Her death is also conceived to be the prime reason for why the law was proposed. Many saw Tilikum (the whale who took Brancheau’s life) is far too dangerous to be held in captivity. Other incidents seen in “Blackfish” also demonstrate why orca whales are not meant for captivity. Many would suspect that with a name as violent as the killer whale, you would know not to meddle with the species.
On another note, SeaWorld is fighting back, claiming a large amount of facts in the film are fictional. Former and current trainers state that various clips shown in the movie do not correspond with the narration. Mark Simmons, who was featured in the film, has said that essentially all of his words were twisted in the documentary and also stated that he “does not recognize the world they portray in the movie.” In addition, previous trainer Kyle Kittleson made a YouTube video explaining all of the negatives of “Blackfish.” He claims that “the whales are in the best of hands, and there’s no harm being done to them.”
The strong opinions that Kyle Kittleson or Mark Simmons hold could potentially have no meaning and if the bill is passed, SeaWorld could close for good.
California has the largest captive orca whale population in the U.S., which is evidently concerning for both men and women such as Richard Bloom.
“These beautiful creatures are much too large and far too intelligent to be confined in small, concrete tanks for their entire lives. It is time to end the practice of keeping orcas captive for human amusement,” Bloom said in a statement.
Seeing as though the results of releasing captive whales back into the ocean could be dangerous, some suggest that the whales should be retired into a sea pen or displayed for educational reasons.
As the documentary is on Netflix, the many people who have seen it are anxiously waiting to see if the bill will be passed.
» Dylan Peyachew is a Grade 10 student at Neelin High School.