SeaWorld is facing a new challenge stemming from the well-know documentary, Blackfish. A new bill has been proposed by Richard Bloom, democratic state assembly member that, if passed, would greatly impact SeaWorld. Bloom acknowledges that he felt compelled to draft the bill after watching the hotly contended documentary, Blackfish.
The passing of the bill would mean that SeaWorld would have to make significant changes. Namely, it would mean that killer whales, orcas, would no longer be allowed to be used in performances. Orca performances are currently a major part of the SeaWorld experience, although trainers are no longer allowed in the tanks with the killer whales due to a judge ruling. The bill would affect any orca performances in California, but SeaWorld is currently the only place in California where killer whales are used in performance displays.
Along with ending performances by killer whales, the bill has two other main parts which are to ban captive breeding and to end any import or export of orcas. SeaWorld would still be able to have killer whales, leaving them on display for public viewing, but there could not be any performances with these whales.
Assemblyman Bloom stated, “There is no justification for the continued captive display of orcas for entertainment purposes.” Lorena Gonzalez, state assemblywoman of San Diego, is a likely supporter of the bill. Gonzalez discussed that SeaWorld has been known for treating workers poorly. She continued by saying, “I am looking forward to having an honest conversation about SeaWorld’s business practices and how they can really be an icon that makes San Diego proud.”
Blackfish is being hotly debated, and there is no clear winner right now. What is clear is that SeaWorld will have to continue to face new challenges brought on by Blackfish. Blackfish alleges that SeaWorld treats both whales and trainers poorly. The movie shows calves separated from their mothers; trainers talking about the awful conditions the whales are in and has clips of different trainer and whale interactions. SeaWorld has responded to the documentary calling it propaganda, and offering an insight to some of the situations shown in the movie, such as calf and mother separations.
In other related news, SeaWorld is now calling for an investigation of Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) agent, Lara Padgett. Padgett investigated SeaWorld after the death of trainer Dawn Bancheau. Bancheau was a seasoned trainer who was killed in 2010 by the whale, Tilikum. Tilikum is featured in Blackfish. After Padgett’s investigation, OSHA found that SeaWorld was in violation and was exposing its workers to known hazards.
Padgett’s investigation led to not only a fine, but OSHA placed a restriction that no longer allows trainers to be in the water with the orcas. SeaWorld is appealing this decision, and is also alleging that Padgett was unethical because of her interactions with Blackfish documentary makers.
SeaWorld claims that Padgett is biased against them. They also claim to have information showing that Padgett attended the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, where Blackfish premiered, with the producers of the documentary and that she accepted free lodging during her stay. In addition, SeaWorld alleges that Padgett disclosed information that was confidential to their company.
It is clear that Blackfish is making waves. With the awareness raised by Blackfish, there could be major changes made regarding the treatment of SeaWorld animals. As the new bill gets voted on and the Padgett investigation continues, it is certain that SeaWorld will continue to have to face these new challenges brought on from the documentary Blackfish.
By Ashley Campbell