Sea World Struggles to Stay Above Water

Sea World, u.s., business, struggle

Sea World is keeping afloat somehow despite the recent sinking of big stars and celebrities.  The famous and much desired tourist destination has seen a recent decline in attendance and enthusiasm from fans, due to the release of the documentary Blackfish.  The famous orcas have taken a dive in ratings as Sea World struggles to stay above water.

Every parent waits for the chance to take their child to the local zoo or aquarium.  Seeing firsthand the wonders of nature, the wild animals and sea creatures brings a learning and appreciation for the rare displays of the world.  Sea World has been a key player in instilling amazement with seals, dolphins and killer whales, with their trained acts set to music and special effects.

Harboring wildlife from Africa or keeping sea creatures in captivity has raised awareness and speculation.  Joan Embry of the San Diego Zoo and Jack Hanna, Director Emeritus of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, have defended the cause of displaying, training and putting wild animals in front of the public eye.  They endorse the animals that can amuse and cause appreciation for nature’s bounty of creatures.  Embry was once a regular on the Johnny Carson Show, bringing leopards, lizards and lemurs to the stage.  As the audience gasped in fear and delight, the animals seem to entertain more than some of the guests.  Hanna, is a big supporter of Sea World, taking his children and grandchildren to the park for traditional visits and defending the special care the animals are given.

Caregivers and trainers seem to adopt the animal they are in charge of for a time.  Zoos and aquariums are well versed and equipped in the necessary food, supplements and activity levels an animal in captivity requires to live out a full life despite the bars and barriers that keep them enclosed for human enjoyment and entertainment.

The orcas at Sea World are highly trainable and are able to comprehend commands and do tricks easily.  They do all that is required of them, enjoying many treats along the way.  Sadly some animals have turned on their trainers, only pursuing an instinctive behavior they were born with.  Although many animals can be housed in elaborate structures somewhat resembling their own habitat, the need for natural foraging and exercise is often compromised.

Zoos were established back in the late 1800’s, and have served as a way for families to connect with nature by viewing creatures in pens, cages and water environments.  The idea caught on with expanded man-made habitats and salt water enclosures.  Many a trainer has been attacked along the way, but most noteworthy are the ones that have occurred at Sea World.

Case in point is Tilikum, the killer whale and star of the show at Sea World, that has bred many offspring, and may be instilling the natural aggressiveness that comes with being an orca.  Trained and applauded by many, the whale has been documented killing, dragging or otherwise causing the demise of three trainers.  Unexpected events within the confines of a specifically designed stage and enclosure, have brought death to those who thought the beast was their friend.  Animals sometimes act out their natural rage and can not always be depended on to be trained in a civil manner.

Supporters of animal rights have staged a protest and many entertainers have joined the cause against captivity of animals.   Food, fun and a great show has recently been slowed down at Sea World, as they struggle to stay above the water that makes the dollar.  Citing non-permission of her song, I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll in Sea World’s production of Shamu Rocks, Joan Jett has taken action.  She has taken a stance on animal cruelty and captivity with many other celebrities and bands following.  The usual fare at Sea World has seen big names disappear from their schedule,  such as Trisha Yearwood, REO, Heart, Willie Nelson, Martina McBride, Cheap Trick and Bare Naked Ladies have cancelled their scheduled performances with the venue.

Although Sea World has rescued and rehabilitated thousands of animals, their own numbers seem to be dwindling for future revenue.   As big names disappear and fade in the wake of the outcry, Sea World scrambles to make up the difference.  Their promoted Bands, BBQ and Brew may need to employ a new type of creature that does not care about causes and issues.

Exhibition of animals, the circus and the shows involving wild-life are starting to give way to more animal activist groups such as PETA, as the years go by.  The reality of keeping an animal penned up within a somewhat natural habitat or sea enclosure is not so entertaining anymore as people realize the true domain of their beloved furry friend or those from the ocean.

It is a debate that will most likely continue as we all love animals and yearn to see tigers, bears and whales at a glance.  The balance between good care at zoos and aquariums run the risks of enjoyment and entrapment.  Each person needs to decide what side they are on and act accordingly.  Animals were designed for pleasure and food, much more than that is a bonus to the selfish acts of man beyond the natural environments of the Earth.  Standing one’s ground in animal activism requires much diligence and respect for protecting rights and privileges beyond the human scope.

Editorial by Roanne H. FitzGibbon



Huffington Post 

News Day 





18 Responses to "Sea World Struggles to Stay Above Water"

  1. Joe Stebbins   December 16, 2013 at 4:11 pm

    There are too many factual inconsistencies in the article to cover them all so just to correct one point:

    Dolphin, along with only a handful of other species are capable of demonstrating sufficient behavioral traits among objective (not seaworld-biased) PhD’s (essentially the entire in situ marine scientific community) study to be recognized for their autonomy and cognitively being so similar to humans as to conclusively (and soon legally) be granted “personhood”.

    Okay. so we are NOT peta fanatics; they give most real activists a bad name. We do not care if you eat meat, ride steers, hunt pigs, etc. The demarkation is now as clearly and easily defined as a google search of “self aware beings”.

  2. Josh D.   December 16, 2013 at 10:04 am

    “Sadly some animals have turned on their trainers, only pursuing an instinctive behavior they were born with.”

    To date there is no record of an orca attacking a human in the wild. Kind of weird when you consider that the wild would be the most likely place to observe an animal’s instinctive behavior.

    I respect your opinion, but I can’t deny how ill-informed your opinion is.

  3. kevin   December 16, 2013 at 8:48 am

    Wow Ro, you sure did spark the comments with this one. Sorry for the ones who do not know you. Keep up the good work in doing what you want to do here and that is get people thinking

  4. waye09   December 16, 2013 at 8:40 am

    It seems this article typifies the attitude of the captive world industry, animals are only created for our entertainment and food. A self serving autocratic attitude that is pervasive in the world today, “everything here is created for ME”

  5. Johnna D   December 16, 2013 at 8:26 am

    I must agree with other comments the reporter who wrote this is truly ignorant and incredibly insensitive.

  6. James Hugo   December 16, 2013 at 7:07 am

    This is quite possibly the worst article I’ve ever read concerning the debate over Orca captivity. ” Sadly some animals have turned on their trainers, only pursuing an instinctive behavior they were born with”- How is following instinct “sad”? Are you expecting a complete repression of natural instincts? Are you suggesting Orcas possess a natural instinct to kill humans? What a horribly misinformed blanket statement.

    “Animals sometimes act out their natural rage and can not always be depended on to be trained in a civil manner.”- WHAT?? So an animal’s natural state of being is one of emotional rage? Wow.

    ” Animals were designed for pleasure and food” – “Designed”? Designed by who? Are you suggesting the theory of intelligent design? “For pleasure”? Again, wow. That doesn’t hold up scientifically or theologically.

    Take some of that SeaWorld money you’re obviously collecting and get some lessons in writing, biology/zoology, and theology before attempting any serious treatment of this subject. Education is priceless

    J. Hugo
    Gracious Ark Ministries

  7. Mike   December 16, 2013 at 6:33 am

    As I ask anyone who thinks it reasonable to keep an Orca or dolphin in a glorified swimming pool (bearing in mind that these are highly intelligent self aware and emotional beings) – would you willingly choose to spend the rest of your life in a room the size of a tennis court.(size for size its a good comparison)- knowing that you can NEVER leave?..

    There will be two or three other people in this room who may not even speak your language… you will be given food everyday if you turn a few tricks in front of a croud.. and the healthcare will be provided. BUT.. .. would you willingly do that..spend the rest of your days in this room?

  8. Yael Hanna Chitrik   December 16, 2013 at 4:49 am

    The person who wrote this article is obviously being funded by the marine captivity industry. Anyone who has watched Blackfish or The Cove can identify with other mammals, with the pain inflicted on them and with the tearing apart of families FOR THE ENTERTAINMENT OF SADISTIC PEOPLE such as the writer of this article. Anyone who teaches their children that captivity is fair and a part of life should be castrated.

  9. kathy halinan   December 15, 2013 at 11:02 pm

    we are a military family disabled veteran and we have come to the cause of the dolphins and whales captive and those hunted and killed in Taiji Jaoan just these 3 months ago, my husband who is a war veteran and served for 43 years said about Tilikum being taken at 3 yrs old and taking his sperm that it was whale rape and another friend said molestation – tilikum has been isolated kept in a tank 0.0001 size his real home, these are intelligent mammals kept in captivity deprived of food in order to do tricks isolated from others from their pod and forced to do tricks so that “$ea world of hurt “can make money for its investors – its the money that fuels seize world – the mammals should be released to the ocean or sea pen sanctuaries if their teeth ground on the metal gates enclosing them prohibit them from complete freedom – they should be free with their own kind and not chained for dollar bills for $ea world who does not care for mammals – has the author watched the movie blackish that says it all really, most anyone who sees it refuses to set a foot in $ea world the time has come to respect our fellow animals not enslave them starve them molest them for money ….the time has come the public is speaking for the voices of the voiceless….watch the movie blackfish you will understand why we need to empty the tanks $ea world must find another way to make money besides enslaving harming killing these innocent gifts of nature….

  10. Violet Cameron   December 15, 2013 at 7:12 pm

    The person who wrote this should be FIRED!!! Who lined her pockets to write a report regarding the quality of life animals receive in captivity. I would love to see her entertain a crowd for the duration of her life…AND THEN GIVE AN OPINION ON THE SUBJECT!!! I’m sure that all animals would choose clorinated pools over their natural habitat. They live longer in captivity to I take it…..CAN WE PLEASE GET SOME REAL JOURNALISM FOR ONCE. Go undercover for a year…..then report something honest and thought provoking..Ringling Bros….Sea World….please take your pick….
    If you have to starve, beat, and kidnap in order to entertain people…why is it exclusive to the animal world….or would that be wrong?

  11. Susan Wrobel   December 15, 2013 at 6:49 pm

    “Animals were designed for pleasure and food” – no empathy there. These intelligent mammals are tortured, deprived of food and sent to ‘solitary’ confinement if they don’t perform. Trainers routinely stuff the gills of fish with antibiotics, antacids and vitamins, and inject them with fresh water, because freezing, storing, thawing and processing fish reduces its nutritional value and fresh water content and stress is a constant concern. Some orcas are given up to 80 pounds of gelatin per day in part to combat dehydration. Some killer whales break and wear down their teeth on metal gates and must have the pulp removed with a power drill. Teeth then must be flushed several times daily to prevent food from causing deadly bacterial infections. One whale was filmed lashing out aggressively in response to trainers trying to jam a wooden block in his mouth in order to control him while performing an endoscopy. “Somewhat resembling their own habitat”? They are very sound sensitive and in captivity are subjected to loud blaring music and fireworks. Watch this video of Corky (who is STILL in captivity) react to hearing her family after decades of separation:

    “Zoos were established back in the late 1800′s, and have served as a way for families to connect with nature by viewing creatures in pens, cages and water environments.” One can only hope that as a humans we have progressed past enslavement, torture and inflicting pain on creatures rather than control them.

    • Chad   December 15, 2013 at 9:41 pm

      the whale that is shown in the video with the wooden block in his mouth during the endoscopy is tillikium.

  12. Johnna Damore   December 15, 2013 at 6:26 pm

    I just want to say that it is not only animal rights extremist groups that are boycotting SeaWorld, it is the general public. All of SeaWorlds conservation efforts do NOT justify or excuse kidnapping and enslaving other marine life. At SeaWorld the habitat provides for these Orcas is less than 1% of their natural habitat. Tilikum has fathered most of the offspring in captivity, most of the babies die shortly after birth and are born with medical issues. SeaWorld should listen to the general population and make some positive changes to restore out faith in them.

  13. Bob Heisler   December 15, 2013 at 5:57 pm

    Joan Embry and Jack Hanna are pimps for the captivity industries. That’s how they make their money.

  14. Theresa Demarest / Filmmaker   December 15, 2013 at 2:18 pm

    The Problem and the Solution to Marine Mammal Captivity

    With the recent release of the documentary film Blackfish, by filmmaker Gabriela Cowperthwaite, and David Kirby’s book, Death at SeaWorld, the time is right for the highly profitable marine park industry to re-evaluate the manner in which it earns money — having captive killer whales perform tricks and stunts in walled tanks. A needed shift in mission statement could offer the marine park industry an entirely new win-win purpose and put their publicly supported corporate money to its highest and best use.

    The new mission statement would engage everyone, the marine park facility, the orca trainers, and the public at large, in a truly educational mission: to rescue, rehabilitate, and release both captive orcas and their trainers. The trainers would be re-trained to work with the orcas in seapens in the open ocean placed whenever possible near the orca’s family pod and country of origin. The orcas would no longer be required to be show animals but would learn and grow in a natural habitat with the goal of eventual release. The question is how this change will be achieved?

    There are two must-see documentaries that spell out both the problem and the solution to this complex issue. These films can help greatly to frame the answers to the life-threatening problems facing captive orcas and their trainers.

    Blackfish focuses on the plight of Tilikum and the life-threatening situation his trainers work in. Tilikum is an alpha male orca owned by SeaWorld, who has a well-known history of killing three human beings during his captivity. Like Keiko, Tilikum was captured in Iceland at about the age of three. To anyone who watches Blackfish, the mandate for change by marine parks is inescapable.

    Keiko The Untold Story – The Star of Free Willy focuses on the life and legacy of Keiko, the beloved orca who starred in the hit film Free Willy. Colin Baird, an orca trainer and expert cast member in the documentary, who first worked with Tilikum and then Keiko, admits that when working with Keiko in Iceland “… there were days that he wouldn’t get in the water with him.” This may have been due perhaps to Keiko’s long period of captivity and Colin’s firsthand experience having had a co-trainer killed while working with Tilikum. To date, Keiko is the only captive orca to have been successfully rehabilitated and released from captivity. He was an unlikely candidate to succeed in such an effort because of his capture a very young age. Keiko thrived in his post-captivity period for more than five years, gaining over 3,000 pounds, mixing it up with wild orcas, and inspiring a generation of children around the world to get involved in an effort to free other killer whales from captivity.

    It is our first hope that folks will watch Blackfish. Probably for the first time they will understand in a most graphic way the problems inherent in keeping these orcas captive. We believe that they will most certainly conclude that it is not only not worth the risk, but is just a wrong way for human beings to engage with these magnificent creatures. But then the question arises as what to do.

    It is our second hope that folks will watch Keiko The Untold Story – The Star of Free Willy and finally learn the truth about the tremendous embrace of freedom that Keiko demonstrated during his incredible journey back to his home waters in Iceland and Norway where he thrived for five years. From the beginning of Keiko’s rehabilitation in 1995 to his death in the ocean in 2003 much was learned by the Free Willy-Keiko Foundation, the organization charged with his release, about what works and what doesn’t, and what is required to rescue, rehabilitate, and release a captive orca to the wild or to retire one from a tank to a seapen, including the cost and fundraising necessary for such a task.

    Currently there are forty-five captive killer whales worldwide. Some of them were captured from the ocean, others were born in captivity. With the goal of releasing these orcas, many divergent groups have formed, with each disparate group seeking the rescue, rehabilitation and release of an individual orca. For example there are now separate groups in several different countries seeking the release of Morgan, Lolita, Corky, Kshamenk and the now infamous Tilikum. The Free Willy-Keiko Foundation, with its hands-on experience and knowledge, is well poised to act as a clearing house for these many groups seeking the release of captive orcas. We invite these groups to work with the Free Willy-Keiko Foundation.

    Rescue, rehab and release can be done successfully and the marine park industry has the money to effect it (a billion and a half dollars a year). They just need the will and the voice of the public to proceed with all haste

    Theresa Demarest/Filmmaker

  15. Mark Berman   December 15, 2013 at 12:06 pm

    Times are changing as the public is made aware
    that orcas and other dolphins deserve their rights to be
    free in their ocean habitat. Go to and learn how
    the star of Free Willy went home.
    The capture and traffic in wildlife must
    Mark Berman
    Earth Island Institute

  16. Eric Mills   December 14, 2013 at 9:58 pm

    Captive orcas = Crime Against Nature.

    Orcas normally live in extended family groups, with the females never leaving their mothers. Orcas may range hundreds of miles in search of their prey: fish, seals, whales, etc. In their tiny concrete prisons, they are unable to dive, normal social behaviors are nigh-impossible, and they are fed on a steady diet of frozen fish. One can only imagine the trauma of having their sonar-echolocation bouncing back from those concrete walls. And then forced or coerced into performing silly “tricks” for an insensitive audience…. Not acceptable!

    Free all cetaceans. Now. They (and we) deserve far better.

    • Kelly Armstrong   December 19, 2013 at 7:33 am

      As long as animals are kept in captivity we will not seriously appreciate and preserve animals in the wild.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.