SeaWorld boasts about their conservation efforts. Yet when will the day come when SeaWorld take a stand and accepts responsibility for the damage they caused to the Southern Resident killer whale population ? Did you know not one of SeaWorld’s orca whales are or have been actually rescued orcas or classified as unreleasable orcas? Not one! All the orca whales SeaWorld owns have been wild caught or captive born. Starting around 1965 Marine parks, including SeaWorld started taking wild orcas from U.S. waters for display in captivity. These orcas were taken from the Southern Resident Washington, Northern Resdients and some transients orcas of British Columbia. Sadly, not all the wild caught orcas SeaWorld accumulated during this time survived in captivity. Therefore once again in 1976, SeaWorld sent representatives out to Puget Sound, Washington to take more of the Southern Residents and move them into captivity once again. At this time, Former Washington Secretary of State Ralph Munro witnessed one of these captures, where he described a tragic story of whaling and brutal captures that split apart whale pods and resulted in the collateral damage deaths of dozens of marine animals. Munro witnessed one of the captures in which an aircraft and explosives were used. Munro subsequently filed a lawsuit that led to an agreement with SeaWorld to stay out of Puget Sound. John Dodge, a journalist, who was also on hand that day described the experience
“The Munros were in their sailboat that day. They watched the violent whale capture and heard the whales inside and outside the nets, crying to one another in their little-understood language.
I was on the shoreline, a (Evergreen State College) student, working as a reporter for the Cooper Point Journal, and was struck deeply by those same eerie cries. Those sounds are etched in my memory and the Munros’ memories forever.
“When we went sailing and saw this accidentally, it changed our lives,” Munro said.
It turned out to be the last whale capture in the United States, the result of lawsuits and public pressure championed at the time by Munro, his boss, Gov. Dan Evans, state Attorney General Slade Gorton and others in the small whale-conservation camp.”
Fortunately Munro stepped in when he did, as he basically saved the entire remainder of Southern Resident whales we have come to know and love so dearly. Eventually SeaWorld would turn to Finland and other countries to obtain their wild orca’s. Public pressure to stop taking from the wild would lead to desperation of SeaWorld to start their own captive orca breeding program instead of stopping the housing of captive orcas in general.
SeaWorld’s orca captures played a huge role in placing the Southern Resident orcas in danger at one time and now the Southern Residents are in trouble once again due to pollution and lack of food coupled with a their already low count due to orca hunts in the 70′s. “During the 1960s and early 1970s, “at least 68 [Southern and Northern Resident] whales were removed or killed during capture operations for public display.” (AR 6 at 43). As a result of a shortage of reproductive females due to those capture operations, the Southern Resident population declined by approximately twelve percent between 1980 and 1984. Id. at 31. The population then grew and stabilized as more female orcas became reproductively mature.” Yet once again just 7 years after the lawsuit that led to an agreement with SeaWorld to stay out of Puget Sound, SeaWorld began seeking more wild orcas to capture from U.S. waters. Despite the dwindling populations of the Southern Residents, SeaWorld was ready to affect other pods in the same manner they had done to the Southern Residents. SeaWorld had not learned their lesson and again showed lack of responsibility or concern for wild orca populations, conservation and preservation. In March 1983, SeaWorld applied for a permit to capture 100 killer whales for purposes of scientific research and public display. Sea World requested permission to collect up to 100 killer whales over a five-year period from Alaska and California coastal waters. Up to ten killer whales would be maintained permanently in captivity for research and display, and up to 90 would be held temporarily (no more than three weeks) for research. The numerous scientific tests proposed included liver biopsies, gastric lavages, hearing and respiratory tests, tooth extractions, and blood tests. Sea World also proposed to tag, mark, and attach radio transmitters to killer whales held temporarily. On November 1, 1983, the Service issued a permit to Sea World authorizing the permanent removal of up to 10 killer whales and the temporary capture of up to 90. The permit imposed several conditions that were not present in Sea World’s original application. For example, one condition was that Sea World was required to conduct a study of local killer whale population in Alaska areas and to submit a report to the Service. No captures could be conducted without further authorization by the Service, and the length of temporary captures was restricted. No more than 2% of a local population could be permanently removed over a two-year period, and no more than two animals could be removed from a distinct social group (pod). Killer whales temporarily captured could be recaptured no more than twice. Many of the planned tests also required further authorization by the Service. On May 1, 1984, Jones sought declaratory and injunctive relief against the Service in federal district court, alleging that the Service’s issuance of the permit without preparation of an environmental impact statement violated the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA), 42 U.S.C. § 4332(2)(C). Sea World intervened as a defendant, and the State of Alaska intervened as a plaintiff. On cross-motions for summary judgment, the district court granted summary judgment in favor of Jones, declared the Service permit void and invalid, and enjoined (a judicial remedy issued in order to prohibit a party from doing or continuing to do a certain activity; ) Sea World from capturing killer whales pursuant to the permit.” SeaWorld’s permit became void all because they REFUSED to do an environmental impact report regarding the wild orcas and follow the guidelines laid out before them in the conditions of the capture permits. SeaWorld stated it was unneceassry to do the environmental impact report that was being asked of them to perform. I question why. SeaWorld claims to support conservation and education, even back then. Conservation is preservation. The Southern Residents are still to date trying to recuperate from the captures of their pod members and the unnecessary deaths of other family pod members by SeaWorld and other marine parks along with pollution and food loss. SeaWorld made no efforts to replace ANY orcas they removed from these pods. There was a time when SeaWorld could have corrected their wrong doing, they could have created a release program for orcas bred in captivity. Instead SeaWorld showed no concern for their actions. They chose to breed captive orcas for themselves and their parks. They would later use the guise of conservation and education as a means to hide from public scrutiny regarding the Southern Resident killer whale’s population status and means of captures. Remember the bombs dropped into the water? SeaWorld now can not even breed orcas for a release program due to their captive orca breeding program consisting of cross breeds and inbred gene pools that they have created. Like low-class animal breeders, their goal is to just breed and create captive born orcas for their collection. All of their captive born orcas could never be released due to damaging the wild gene pools. SeaWorld’s breeding program standards are not the standards regular breeders seek such as not inbreeding, or using aggressive male or females as top breeders or only using the best of the best to breed with. So long as SeaWorld can produce a calf, it does not matter who they breed together. This will never work for the wild gene pools, thus will never ever be able to help wild pods repopulate through the use of captive breeding programs. SeaWorld is faced with a dilemma now, either keep crossbreeding/inbreeding or capture more whales. With hope by our side, public out cry will prevent any further wild takes of orcas in U.S. or foreign waters by SeaWorld. The problem is that it is still legal for them to apply for a permit to take orcas from the wild in the U.S. and foreign water stated by SeaWorld representative Julie Scardina in 2010. We can not have other pods damaged as the Southern Resident population all in the name of entertainment. These whales are way more important to nature than they are to SeaWorld and our entertainment. These whales are needed for the sustainability of our eco system, not SeaWorld’s tax returns. I ask SeaWorld before breeding any more orcas or taking more orcas from the wild to stand up and help the Southern Resident Killer Whales! Take Responsibility! Raise awareness in your parks about them and their survival being in jeopardy. Tell people how they can help save the Southern Residents! Give them real solutions, not just a few facts. Fight to protect the salmon and food sources for the wild Southern Residents! Do something that will actually impact the Southern Residents. You claim your education program is valuable and that you educate many people and that is the good you are doing and is why these animals need to remain in captivity, yet in the end it seems as though you are competing with nature.