An Open Letter to SeaWorld: More than Bigger Tanks, Orcas Need the Ocean
Your stocks are dropping by the day. You’re bleeding financially in the wake of the powerful documentary “Blackfish” and, more importantly, the public’s growing realization that confining intelligent cetaceans to cruel and small tanks and forcing them to perform is just plain wrong. As the backlash continues, there is a better move forward – and a better use of your money – than your plan to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to build bigger orca tanks.
As a company responsible for the care of animals, with any steps that you take, you should be asking yourselves “Would this change be better for the animals? Would they want this,” as Sea Shepherd’s Founder Captain Paul Watson says. Yes, bigger tanks, giving these massive orcas more room to swim, would undoubtedly be an improvement in their lives. If they had the ability to speak for themselves in our own human languages, the orcas would most likely say that they agree, if that were their only option.
However, we are sure that – more than the tanks they’re in now, more than any bigger tank that you could possibly build – these whales would want the ocean. They want the life they were meant to have or a life as close as possible to their natural lives. Why would they not want a habitat more like their rightful ocean home? And what sort of tiny holding tanks will they be confined to for months on end while these larger tanks are being built?
As you plan to build these bigger tanks, please keep in mind the massive shift in public opinion that continues as more and more people pledge to stop supporting the marine mammal aquarium industry – which fuels the capture of wild cetaceans around the globe and the slaughter of dolphins in Taiji, Japan. Please be aware that your colleagues at the National Aquarium in Baltimore, MD are considering closing their dolphin exhibit and relocating their remaining captive dolphins to sea pens in response to that public opinion and concerns for the animals’ wellbeing. You too have an opportunity to move forward and do what is right for the animals in your care, while also setting a precedent and an example as one of the largest marine park companies in the industry.
Please also consider, as you plan to soon start the tank upgrades at your San Diego park, that proposed legislation in California is seeking to ban orca shows, and ultimately, orca captivity in the state. The Vancouver Park Board recently voted to ban the breeding of most whales and dolphins at the Vancouver Aquarium, and more examples like this will follow. The times they are changing, and you simply must adopt a new business model to change with them. Will SeaWorld sink or swim?
Sea Shepherd urges you to make the only logical, compassionate and appropriate choice — relocate the orcas in your parks to sea pens. While larger tanks would be a small improvement in the everyday lives of the orcas in your parks, there is a better choice. Sea pens would allow these whales the chance to live their lives in relative peace – no more concrete cells, no more forced performances amidst large crowds and loud music. Imagine them with more room to stretch their massive bodies, the chance to finally feel the currents of the sea, and to live in unchlorinated ocean water.
Once and for all, it is time for you to stop asking, “What will increase our profits?” and instead ask, “What is best for the whales?”
Sea Shepherd Conservation Society