Shamu is no dolphin caught in a tuna net

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With the release of the independent film “Blackfish” more attention has been given to the treatment of Killer Whales held in captivity by amusement parks such as SeaWorld. Blackfish’s director Gabriela Cowperthwaite was looking to make a difference with her riveting tale of the death of SeaWorld killer whale trainer Dawn Brancheau. The release of the film was intended to spotlight the treatment of Killer Whales in captivity, but SeaWorld took it personal.

Perhaps they should have. The movie features a SeaWorld Killer Whale named Tilikum, a whale that is blamed for three deaths and is still a main breeder whale for Sea world.

While marine life activists have praised the film as ground breaking, SeaWorld has dedicated an entire ad campaign to debunk the film, at much expense. A quick search in Google for Blackfish and you will find “The Truth About Blackfish” a website created by SeaWorld dedicated to rebuilding the confidence that has been lost over the films release. According to the L.A. Times, SeaWorld has posted losses since the release of the film.

Hollywood could not help but get behind the film, in a recent episode of Revolution, which airs primetime on NBC a star character refers to another as  “like watching a killer whale at SeaWorld, pathetic.” This quote was in reference to the change in the character’s personality to a more docile person.

But the bandwagon is not complete. While SeaWorld grapples with it’s losses and like Firestone, attempts to rebuilds it’s tarnished image, where are all the activists?

In 1988 a lone cameraman shot footage of hundreds of Dolphins captured in tuna nets. That video footage shocked the world and led to a winning boycott of tuna products. In the aftermath, a “Dolphin Safe” label was created and tuna sales went right back on track. New policies in the capture of tuna have lead to a more friendly tuna catch and have spared millions of Dolphin lives.

But truth be told, there is no way to guarantee that 100% of Dolphins have been saved from these policies and Greenpeace, along with other activist groups are still hard at work to protect flipper from those fishermen. 
But the policies and labels were enough to calm the American people and convince the majority to eat tuna. Despite the concerns of the very people that brought the problem to light. Americans can be bought off with a label or flashing website that explains the issue, at least that is what the corporate mongers of SeaWorld are hoping, and it appears to be working. Give and inch and you can sell a mile.

For now the filmmakers behind Blackfish can score a small victory. SeaWorld has reported to the securities and exchange committee that attendance at its parks are down f the first quarter by 13% or close to 500,000 visitors out of 3.5 million. While SeaWorld will not admit that the downward spiral is due to the film directly, it would appear to be having a slight effect on the giant corporation

I for one think it is a shame to keep such an amazing animal in a swimming pool and train it to fetch. Having been in the Puget Sound for a short time, I have seen the killer whale in a natural environment and I can tell you it is spectacular. While I hope the film gains momentum and people realize that there is really no value in these types of theme parks, all we can do is act, one person at a time.

If you have not seen the movie, please rent it, if for nothing else a good solid education on the treatment of Killer Whales in captivity. You can join the cause, or read up on the subject further at There are movie trailers and more.

Dennis Phillips | Robertson County News

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