For so many San Diego families we know, Sea World has been a great place to spend the day. However, with the controversy over the movie Blackfish, a lot of moms we know have been asking themselves if they should renew their passes and also asking if this is the positive organization they believe it to be.
I have many friends who tell of gut wrenching accounts of whales abusing other whales, mama whales having their babies ripped away from them. They talk of the physical signs reflecting the negative effects of captivity, accounts of under trained trainers, irresponsible breeding, and so-on. I’ve also heard of musicians and school groups also pulling away from Sea World after seeing the movie.
Full Disclosure: I did not see the film. Why? Because I’m too much of an emotional wimp these days when it comes to moms and babies of any species. I felt I should watch it in order to be a good “journalist”, But I decided that I was bothered enough by the facts stated above and that I didn’t need to see it in it’s full emotion packed form. I just wanted answers to the issues mentioned above.
I was fortunate to be one of a handful of bloggers invited to a symposium held by the Sea World Education department (not the Marketing department I noted to myself) where they held a forum to answer any concerns and tell their side of the story.
Full Disclosure: I am aware that they were trying to impress us.
Sea World dedicated 6 hours to showing what they are all about, and yes, it worked. I was impressed.
So now is where I cut to the point. Before any of this, I was kind of “meh” about Sea World. I saw it as a moderately fun whale themed amusement park.
I now see it as an important resource for raising environmentally aware people as well as an important rescue resource for our coastal community.
I believe many people do not realize that so much of what Sea World does and that a lot of the money from the theme park goes to conservation and education.
I believe many people do not know that for a lot of the employees who work with the animals, this is not a job. This is a 24/7 commitment. I met multiple people who have worked there for 25 years and more and they are PASSIONATE about what they do. You have to ask yourself, why would so many people who have dedicated their lives to animals be involved with an evil empire, if that is the case.
I talked with people who have wanted to work at SW since they were in middle school, living in the Midwest. People who have worked on oil spills as far as South Africa, rescuing wildlife. People who are on call 24/7 to rescue local sea lions– and wouldn’t have it any other way. People who put as much effort in diagnosing a sick 30 gram butterfly fish as a 5000 pound whale.
At the end of the day, I feel that it is better having Sea World than not having it. The opportunity to interact with sea creatures first hand creates a better appreciation for our nautical neighbors. It is part of creating generations of people that find ocean conservation essential.
Kristi, one of the trainers who has been at Sea World since 1988 made a great point; that the movie Blackfish is a good thing. She pointed out the level of emotion that it has caused, moving people to learn more and care more. Which puts the film makers on the same side as Sea World in a strange way.
Did you know…
- Sea World has a non-profit Conservation Ambassador team
- The animals are fed restaurant quality fish
- They are HIGHLY regulated by NOAA, National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration
- They are the first San Diego theme park to eliminate plastic bags
- Sea World rescues around 150 sea lion pups a year
- They have a team of first responders trained in case of a west coast oil spill
- They care for 100-300 sick or injured birds a year
- 80% of the animals there were born in captivity
- Trainers must have at least two years working with the trainer team before they can get in the water. Even then, it depends on previous animal interaction and where they work is determined on where they excelled.
- San Diego has a population of around 70 green turtles in the south bay that Sea World helps when they get into trouble.
- Three signs that animals in captivity are thriving are that they are eating, playing, and procreating. One Orca was working on the third while we we there.Wink Wink.
- Sea World provides scientific research that is shared world wide and provides support for other local organizations, like the Birch Aquarium.
I know that many people may still have objections, but for our family, we now feel better supporting Sea World and educating Josie on the importance of all living creatures and respecting our planet. I have read online that the arguments presented in the movie are inconsistent (Tilikum has killer genes, and Tilikum was driven to kill due to captivity, for example).
I have also read that since the film makers didn’t have access, they used footage from other sources in editing to tell their story. In my opinion, this makes it not a documentary. If there was a documentary about a horrible restaurant, and they didn’t let you film inside, so you use footage of another restaurant instead it is no longer a documentary. It is a movie.
Let’s hope this movie inspires us all to look deeper, care more, question everything and hear both sides.