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Re: 'Blackfish' Backlash: Fan Pressure Leads Willie Nelson to Cancel SeaWorld Concert

January 24, 2015 08:43AM

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b]SeaWorld’s New Killer Whale Plan: Bigger Tanks, but the Shows Go On[/b]

The company unveils details of a more natural environment for its captive orcas, but the marine mammals will continue to perform for audiences.

January 23, 2015 By Taylor Hill
Taylor Hill is TakePart's associate environment and wildlife editor.

SeaWorld, pummeled by a plummeting stock price and declining attendance, is pushing hard to get moving on a new tank plan for its San Diego park that would change the way we see, and the way it treats, killer whales.

More details came out in a recent U-T San Diego article that outlined SeaWorld’s $300 million tank expansion project announced last August. It looks like most of the work is aimed at keeping park attendees from realizing they’re looking at captive animals.

The pool expansion—a near doubling in size to a 10-million-gallon tank up to 50 feet deep—was big news in August. But new details have emerged about how the water space, called the “Blue World” initiative, will be used.

The old tank was designed as a stage to showcase orcas performing tricks for SeaWorld audiences. Blue World will be “an insider’s look at how the whales live and play and interact,” according to U-T San Diego.

Construction on the expanded 1.5-acre attraction is expected to start next year and will incorporate a three-tiered experience for attendees.

(Illustration courtesy SeaWorld)

The Shore Level

Replacing the concrete walls and plastic-lined sides, the tank’s surroundings will include 350 feet of shoreline, with synthetic rocks and plants to create a natural setting. Additional shallow areas—around four feet deep—will give orcas a chance to rub their bellies and slide along the bottom, which the marine mammals do in the wild.

But the old show will go on—killer whales will continue to perform for audiences in the old tank.

The Shelf

Running along the side of the tank will be the longest piece of the enclosure, giving a “feet to fin” view of the whales at around a 14-foot depth.

The Bottom

Descending more than 40 feet—by either elevator or escalator—visitors will get to view orcas in the deepest part of the tank. The current tank design has an underwater viewing area that is only 10 feet deep. With the expanded area, orcas should be able to reach higher swimming speeds and will also reportedly experience “ocean-like currents” with the planned construction of a large pump that will simulate swimming in the open sea.

The natural landscape, additional water area, and deeper depths all add up to a more true-to-nature experience for the orcas, said Brian Morrow, senior director of development and design for SeaWorld Entertainment.

“It reflects this concept we’ve talked a lot about, this idea of dynamic enrichment where the whales will have various surfaces and depths,” he told U-T San Diego.

Animal rights activists called the expansion a smoke screen. It is “fluff for visitors and does nothing for the orcas who are still confined to small, barren concrete tanks that they have to swim in in circles with chemically treated water,” Matt Bruce, campaigner for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, told Mission Valley News. “Doubling the size of the tanks—even if you make the prison bigger it’s still a prison.”

Still, spending hundreds of millions of dollars on a plan that doesn’t involve killer whales doing tricks is a major shift for a company that made its name on backflipping orcas.

SeaWorld has been on the defensive since the release of the 2013 documentary Blackfish, which depicted the mistreatment and stress captive killer whales endure. The film triggered a backlash against aquatic entertainment venues, including all three SeaWorld parks.

Since then, the company’s stock has plummeted; legislation has been introduced in California to ban orca captivity for entertainment purposes, and SeaWorld chief Jim Atchinson has resigned (the search for a replacement continues).

“Blue World is not a reaction to animal extremists,” Mike Scarpuzzi, vice president of zoological operations for SeaWorld San Diego, told U-T San Diego. “Blue World is the fourth expansion of our killer whale environment at the park and is a demonstration of our ongoing commitment to their health and well-being.”

But is it enough to change public opinion about keeping orcas in captivity? So far, animal rights activists see the expansion as an example of how far out of touch SeaWorld is with public sentiment.

"I do appreciate the fact that SeaWorld is willing to admit that something is wrong, for the first time," Blackfish director Gabriela Cowperthwaite told Bloomberg in August. "But the problem is, instead of changing their business model, they're doubling down."

The solution, opponents argue, should not be to expand tanks but to remove orcas from them entirely—retiring current captive killer whales to sea pens in the ocean—and banning the practice of whale captivity.


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 01/24/2015 08:44AM by Alana33.

Re: 'Blackfish' Backlash: Fan Pressure Leads Willie Nelson to Cancel SeaWorld Concert

January 30, 2015 09:33AM

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Ontario Moves to Ban Killer Whale Sales and Protect Captive Marine Mammals
by Alicia Graef
January 29, 2015

Animal advocates are cheering an announcement from officials in Ontario that they will be moving ahead with plans intended to protect captive marine mammals and improve their well-being, in addition to making a change that could end captivity for orcas.

Following the release of a report commissioned by the government detailing the inadequate conditions marine mammals are currently kept in, lawmakers announced they would be moving to create new standards of care for captive marine mammals that will overhaul a number of aspects of their lives from the size of pools they’re kept in, social groupings they’re placed with and how they’re handled and displayed, among other things. They also intend to set up independent Animal Welfare Committees at every facility where they’re kept to ensure oversight.

Even bigger, they also announced they would be introducing legislation that would ban the breeding and sales of orcas in the province. An advisory group made up of vets, animal welfare groups, representatives from the industry and those who enforce regulations will also be created to provide input on the new regulations and help set up a time table for their implementation.

According to a statement from the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services, Ontario, which has more zoos and aquariums than any other province, would be the first province in Canada to set specific standards of care for marine mammals. Community Safety Minister Yasir Naqvi stated:

Our government is moving forward with stronger protections for marine mammals to ensure these unique animals receive the best possible treatment and care. This is something that Ontarians expect and these animals deserve. These higher standards of care, along with prohibiting any future breeding or acquisition of orcas in Ontario, are both the right thing to do and builds on our government’s ongoing efforts to have the strongest animal protection laws in Canada.

The move to create greater protection for captive marine mammals follows a scathing series of exposés by the Toronto Star in 2012 that were published after former employees came forward to blow the whistle on conditions at Marineland in Niagara Falls.

The reports that came out detailed the numerous issues at the park from understaffing to filthy living conditions, along with detailing specific accounts of egregious suffering that raised serious concerns about their care and subsequently drew public outrage.

Marineland is the only facility in Canada that has an orca and she will hopefully be the last. Kiska, who has been at the park for the past 37 years after being taken from her home waters in Iceland in 1977, is sadly giving Lolita a serious run for the title of the world’s loneliest orca. Her advocates fear that her health is rapidly deteriorating and while it may be too late to bring her real justice, these changes will mean no more orcas will ever have to suffer her fate.

Dr. Naomi Rose, a marine mammal scientist and advocate, told the Toronto Star that there is still a ways to go for captive marine mammals, but these efforts show “the kind of strong leadership North America needs on this key animal welfare issue.”

The advisory group working to establish new regulations is expected to make final recommendations in six months, while the legislation regarding orcas will be introduced later this spring. Meanwhile, we can all help captive marine mammals everywhere by not going to facilities that keep them.

Read more: []

Re: 'Blackfish' Backlash: Fan Pressure Leads Willie Nelson to Cancel SeaWorld Concert

February 01, 2015 08:16AM

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Whale watching video

Re: 'Blackfish' Backlash: Fan Pressure Leads Willie Nelson to Cancel SeaWorld Concert

February 05, 2015 12:32AM

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Lolita, the World's Loneliest Orca, Gets Endangered Species Protection

But the killer whale isn't leaving the Miami Seaquarium for her native Puget Sound any time soon.

February 04, 2015 By Emily Gertz

Federal officials on Wednesday granted a long-captive killer whale the same status that her wild kin have under the Endangered Species Act.

But for now, Lolita, the Florida-held orca, won't be changing addresses as a result.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) determined that Lolita, a killer whale living since 1970 at the Miami Seaquarium, shares the established federal status of the critically endangered Southern Resident killer whales of the Pacific Northwest coast.

But the change in status doesn't compel the Miami Seaquarium to get her a bigger pool, return her to the wild, or do much of anything else so far, according to NOAA officials.

Lolita was captured as a calf in waters off Washington state that are home to the Southern Resident population. That fact, along with Lolita's genetic links to the region's wild whales, factored strongly into the agency's decision, officials said. The move closes a loophole that excluded wild-caught, captive killer whales from the Southern Resident population from federal endangered species protections.

Since Lolita is the last Southern Resident killer whale still in captivity, and it’s long been illegal to remove them from the wild, this change won’t have big ramifications for other whales.

But People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), which in 2013 petitioned NOAA to give Lolita endangered status, believes her change of status forms a foundation for further legal action on her behalf.

“We believe her current situation, being in held a tiny tank with no other members of her species or even shade from the sun violates the Endangered Species Act,” said Jared Goodman, director of animal law at PETA. “Her listing means that she’s now protected from harm and harassment [and] we intend to be sure that those protections are enforced.”

Activists have campaigned for decades to improve Lolita's living conditions or move her back to her native waters. Recent aerial footage showed Lolita careening around her tank, her sharp turns driving home just how inadequate the space was for a 22-foot-long whale.

But setting her free is a complicated matter, said federal officials.

"Imagine you’ve been in captivity in a tightly managed environment, fed by humans, for the last 40-45 years," Will Stelle, the west coast regional administrator for NOAA's fisheries division, said at a press conference Wednesday. "Are you ready to be released into the wild and fend for yourself?"

The agency's priority remains the survival of the critically endangered Southern Resident killer whales in the wild, Stelle said. Returning Lolita to the wild could expose that population to diseases or stresses that could undercut their survival. Only about 77 of the orcas remain.

PETA does not advocate releasing Lolita into the wild, Goodman said, “without knowing if that is in her best interests, or in the best interests of the species.

“The ultimate goal is for Lolita to be retired to a coastal sanctuary in her home waters, where she can feel the ocean currents and interact with other whales swimming by.”


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 02/05/2015 12:33AM by Alana33.

Re: 'Blackfish' Backlash: Fan Pressure Leads Willie Nelson to Cancel SeaWorld Concert

February 06, 2015 07:56PM

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New Rule Raises New Hope for Lolita

Written by Jennifer O'Connor | February 4, 2015
Prompted by a petition submitted by PETA, the Animal Legal Defense Fund, and the Orca Network as well as comments submitted by more than 17,000 people, the National Marine Fisheries Service has finally granted Lolita—the lone orca who’s confined to a minuscule tank at the Miami Seaquarium—the protections that she’s entitled to under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

The ESA protects members of a group of endangered wild orcas, known as the Southern Residents, in the Pacific Northwest from being harmed or harassed. But Lolita was excluded from the endangered listing without justification. She was surrounded by humans in boats, forced into a net, and torn away from her family in the Puget Sound nearly half a century ago.

The new rule—which becomes effective in about 90 days—now includes Lolita in the endangered listing. So what does this mean for her?

Now that Lolita has been given additional protection from “harm and harassment” (how else can being confined to the smallest orca tank in North America, denied an orca companion or shelter from the sun, and forced to perform stupid tricks be described?), we’ll work to ensure that these protections are enforced and continue to push for her retirement and release. A protected coastal sea pen off Washington’s San Juan Islands would allow her greater freedom of movement and the opportunity to see and communicate with her mother and the rest of her long-lost family members, who still spend much of their time in the area.

See link to sign petition:

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 02/06/2015 07:58PM by Alana33.

Re: 'Blackfish' Backlash: Fan Pressure Leads Willie Nelson to Cancel SeaWorld Concert

February 06, 2015 08:08PM

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SeaWorld of Hurt

Help imprisoned Orcas at SeaWorld

In marine parks and aquariums, dolphins and other sea animals routinely die prematurely from stress and other captivity-related causes, and SeaWorld has an abysmal record.

SeaWorld continues to jeopardize the safety of humans and animals alike despite numerous tragedies—including the deaths of many orcas and the death of a trainer who was seized by a frustrated orca, thrashed around violently, and held under water to drown.

The intelligent, social ocean animals kept in the pitifully small tanks at SeaWorld are denied everything that is natural and important to them. In the wild, dolphins swim up to 100 miles a day in the open ocean, but captive dolphins are confined to small tanks in which the reverberations from their sonar bounce off the walls, driving them insane. Some of these animals were violently captured and torn away from their homes in the wild, and many are forced to learn and perform circus-style tricks. According to whistleblower tips from trainers, withholding food from animals who refuse to perform is a common training method, and because of the intense boredom and aggression caused by captivity, orcas gnaw on the metal gates and concrete corners of the tanks and damage their teeth.

The only thing that people learn from visiting a SeaWorld theme park is how miserable life is for the animals confined there. Children see mere shadows of animals, defeated beings who do not engage in natural behavior and cannot live as nature intended. Marine parks teach all the wrong lessons: that it is acceptable to imprison animals; to deprive them of freedom of movement and thought; to forbid them the chance to establish their natural territory and explore; to breed and separate them as we, not they, please; and to watch them go insane from boredom and loneliness.

You can help the animals imprisoned by SeaWorld today. Please take a moment to ask SeaWorld to immediately set in place a firm and rapid plan to release the animals to sanctuaries that can provide them with a more natural environment.

Please keep all correspondence polite, as anything less will hurt our efforts.

Send this message to:
Jim Atchison


Dear [Decision Maker],
*(Edit Letter Below)

[Your Name]
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Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 02/06/2015 08:09PM by Alana33.

Re: 'Blackfish' Backlash: Fan Pressure Leads Willie Nelson to Cancel SeaWorld Concert

February 12, 2015 07:03AM

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Revealing the Cove Dolphins' Toxic Secrets

As the killing season nears an end in Taiji, testing shows that dolphin meat sold at Japanese supermarkets is riddled with mercury.

February 11, 2015 By Salvatore Cardoni

With the dolphin-killing season in Taiji, Japan, nearing its expected March 1 end, meat from striped dolphins slain last month in the notorious cove has tested positive for high levels of mercury and for trace but legally safe levels of radiation, said Ric O'Barry of the Dolphin Project on Tuesday.

O'Barry, star of 2009's Oscar-winning documentary The Cove, which put a global spotlight on the town's annual hunt, purchased the meat in January from a Taiji supermarket and sent it to a Tokyo laboratory for testing.

Even without a smoking gun radiation test—which activists would have wielded to pressure the Japanese government to end the hunt—the mercury results, coupled with comparable findings in years past, will be used to educate the Japanese people on the dangers of eating mercury-rich dolphin sashimi.

O'Barry said growing awareness of contaminated dolphin meat has led to a decline in its consumption.

"The more time I spend on the ground in Taiji, talking with local police and concerned citizens, the only thing, really, I find that's going to stop the hunt is if people realize they're eating poison," O'Barry said. "We must double down on this mercury angle—it's the weak link, the Achilles' heel, in the Taiji pipeline."

The meat O'Barry tested was found to contain 1.4 parts per million of mercury. The Japanese government's advisory level for the element is 0.4 ppm.

Tests in previous years have yielded similar results.

From 2002 to 2006, Tetsuya Endo, one of the world's leading experts on mercury levels in marine mammals, bought more than 50 samples of dolphin meat at Taiji markets. Tests conducted on the meat found "the average levels of mercury and methyl mercury in pilot whale meat were 9.6 ppm and 5.9 ppm," Endo told The Japan Times. The government limit for methyl mercury, the most toxic form of the heavy metal, is 0.3 ppm.

In 2012, dolphin meat purchased in and around Taiji by environmentalists from the Elsa Nature Conservancy, a Japanese nonprofit, was found to contain three-and-a-half times the country's maximum allowed level for mercury.

Both dolphin and whale meat contain high levels of the element because mercury is emitted into the atmosphere by coal-burning power plants and other industrial facilities. That mercury is carried into the ocean, where it is absorbed by marine organisms and, over time, is passed up the food chain to dolphins and whales.

Fetuses and young children are especially vulnerable to mercury, which affects the development of the nervous system.

Humans aren't the only sentient mammals affected by mercury; it harms the dolphins too.

Mercury and other toxins "have been linked to increased rates of cancer, increased first calf mortality, immune suppression, and a higher susceptibility to infectious diseases, [and] are postulated to be a primary factor causing population declines," according to Toxic Catch, a 2013 comprehensive study on Taiji dolphin meat conducted by the London-based Environmental Investigative Agency.

"It's a terrible, terrible thing for dolphins," said Luca Giovagnoli, the resident marine mammal veterinarian at the Dolphin Project. "It particularly impairs their neurological function, just as it does for humans."

Environmentalists have been concerned about the possible presence of radiation in dolphin and whale meat since March 2011, when the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster released large quantities of irradiated elements into the ocean.

But the meat O'Barry tested was found to contain just three Becquerels per kilogram of radiation. The Japanese government considers anything higher than 100 Becquerels per kilogram to be unsafe. By comparison, three months after the Fukushima meltdown, two of 17 minke whales caught and killed off the coast of Hokkaido were found to contain 31 and 24 Becquerels per kilogram, respectively.

"If Dolphin Project—or anyone else—finds radiation levels in Taiji dolphin meat higher than 100 Becquerels per kilogram, it would be big news that would shut down the supply and demand of the industry," O'Barry said.

As the 2014–15 hunting season concludes on or near March 1—Taiji fishers will stop hunting dolphins the day after they see bonito, their next target, swimming under their boats—the number of dolphins slaughtered or captured for sale to aquariums is down from last season.

From Sept. 1, 2014, the start of the hunting season, through Feb. 8, 2015, there have been 654 dolphins slaughtered in the cove, according to data compiled by the website Ceta-Base, from estimates given by Cove Guardians, the on-the-ground volunteers for the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, volunteers for O'Barry's Dolphin Project, and the Japanese Fisheries Ministry. Last season, 831 dolphins were killed. The number of dolphins captured for sale in January 2015 is roughly half what it was in January 2014.

O'Barry cautioned there is still plenty of time before the season's end for the hunters to kill "far too many more dolphins" in a last-ditch attempt to reach their 1,938-specimen quota.

"If we continue testing for contaminates and publish the results wherever possible, it will have an impact on the consumers—it just will," he said.

In January 2007, O'Barry and journalist Boyd Harnell tested meat from a dolphin killed in Taiji that they purchased at the Okuwa Supermarket in Shingu, about a 45-minute drive from the cove.

It was found to contain high levels of mercury, so they confronted the store manager with the results. “A few weeks later the giant supermarket chain announced that they would remove all dolphin meat from all of their 137 supermarkets," O'Barry said. "It works, and we will do it again."


Re: 'Blackfish' Backlash: Fan Pressure Leads Willie Nelson to Cancel SeaWorld Concert

February 17, 2015 12:42AM

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Hello, World! Baby Orca Surfaces, Joining Endangered Pod

Washington’s coast, a welcome addition to an endangered family of southern resident killer whales.

February 14, 2015 By Emily Gertz
Emily Gertz is TakePart's associate editor for environment and wildlife.

This newborn southern resident killer whale calf was first sighted last week, just off the coast of San Juan Island in Washington state.

Dave Ellifrit, a research assistant with the island's Center for Whale Research, caught these glimpses of the whale calf on camera while he and colleague Jeanne Hyde were out on the water on Thursday, identifying whales.

“I'm the photo ID guy,” said Ellifrit, who has been working for 25 years to study and conserve the area’s killer whales. “I've got all these fins in my head, both residents and transients.” The shape and coloring of fins are used to identify orcas.

The mom in the image is J19, is a 36-year-old whale who is also mother to 10-year-old daughter J41. J19's newborn baby has been dubbed J51 and is the second known calf born this winter into the southern resident population of killer whales. Three distinct pods of the orcas live year-round in the waters between Monterey, California, and Canada’s Queen Charlotte Islands, about 500 miles northwest of San Juan Island and Puget Sound.

Southern resident killer whales have endangered species protections in both the United States and Canada because their numbers have been dropping steadily for decades.

“Back in the mid-late 1990s, we had a peak of nearly 100,” Ellifrit said. “It’s been going down more or less ever since.” J19 is “one of those young females who we wondered why she hasn’t had more calves.”

The main threat to southern resident killer whales is lack of food: Their favorite prey, chinook salmon, is also endangered. “A lot of their problems would be solved if they had plenty to eat,” Ellifrit said.

Increasing levels of industrial pollution are also hurting the whales.

“Toxins that build up in their bodies have effects on their reproductive and immune systems,” he said. “It would take generations and generations of things being a whole lot better than they are for this population to get past 80 or 90 whales.”

Little J51, who was estimated to be about one week old when these photos were taken, has brought the group’s total population up to 79 whales.

“A new calf always makes people happier around here,” Ellifrit said. “Every new calf is a hope. But we’ll feel a whole lot better about this calf when it grows up and has two or three calves of its own.”

See link for pics of this beautiful baby:

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 02/17/2015 12:44AM by Alana33.

Re: 'Blackfish' Backlash: Fan Pressure Leads Willie Nelson to Cancel SeaWorld Concert

February 18, 2015 05:55AM

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Dolphins Are Still Dying Five Years After the Deepwater Horizon Disaster
A new government-funded study attributes the high rate of marine mammal deaths in part to the BP oil spill.

February 17, 2015 by David Kirby

Dolphins in the Gulf of Mexico continue to die at high rates five years after the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, according to a new government-funded study.

The report, published in the journal PLOS One, could have a significant impact on how money the petroleum giant must pay to restore the Gulf will be used to save imperiled dolphins.

The study “indicates that the current multi-year marine mammal unusual mortality event (UME) in the Northern Gulf of Mexico has multiple groupings of high bottlenose dolphin mortalities and may be due to different contributing factors, including the Deepwater Horizon oil spill,” National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration officials said in a statement.

“It’s been fairly clear that the oil played a role in this situation, and obviously more science is always needed, but I don’t know that this study will change the strategy for BP,” said Lacey McCormick, communications manager at the National Wildlife Federation. “I think they will continue to dig in their heels and deny the science the whole way through.”

The study nonetheless can help scientists determine how to proceed from here, McCormick said.

“BP will have to pay billions of dollars under the Clean Water Act and the Oil Pollution Act, and it raises the question of what do we do with this money,” she said. “We need to use science to determine how to use this money effectively on ecosystem restoration for dolphins and other species in the Gulf.”

The report, which was prepared by the National Marine Mammal Foundation and funded by NOAA, analyzed data from four groupings of dolphin deaths in the Gulf, three of which took place after the spill.

From February 2010 through the present, 1,305 dolphins stranded on Gulf shores, about 94 percent of which were found dead, making it the longest marine mammal die-off in the Gulf in recorded history.

Still, BP is repeating its long-held contention that the dolphin die-off prior to the spill is proof that the company is not to blame.

“The study on the Gulf’s ‘unusual mortality event’ (UME) reiterates what other experts, such as NOAA, have stated: the UME started three months before the Deepwater Horizon spill, and the cause or causes have not been determined,” BP said on its State of the Gulf website. “The study does not show that the accident adversely impacted dolphin populations.”

The Battle to Control the Story—and Science—of the Deepwater Horizon Catastrophe

BP claims that various other factors likely caused all four die-offs, including cold water temperatures, freshwater runoff in Louisiana’s Lake Pontchartrain, bacterial infestations, “and the increased public awareness and number of wildlife observers in the Gulf after the spill.”

But McCormick noted in a blog post that the study found that the 26 dolphins that died in Lake Pontchartrain prior to the spill had “tell-tale skin lesions” caused by freshwater and they were also exposed to unusually cold weather. “Therefore,” she wrote, “there is no reason to connect these earlier deaths with the ongoing deaths.”

NWF Gulf restoration scientist Ryan Fikes said in a statement: “BP executives need to quit bashing the science—and the scientists—and accept the company’s responsibility. It’s time for BP to quit stalling so we can get started restoring the Gulf.”


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 02/18/2015 05:57AM by Alana33.

Re: 'Blackfish' Backlash: Fan Pressure Leads Willie Nelson to Cancel SeaWorld Concert

February 20, 2015 09:00AM

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The Battle to Ban Whale and Dolphin Captivity Comes to Washington
by Alicia Graef
February 19, 2015

In good news for captive whales and dolphins, yet another state is taking action to make sure these social, intelligent, far-ranging creatures aren’t confined and exploited for our entertainment.

At the end of January, Washington Senators Kevin Ranker and Christine Rolfes introduced legislation that would make it illegal to keep both wild-caught and captive-bred whales, dolphins and porpoises in captivity for entertainment.

The bill, SB 5666, would also ban imports into the state and captive breeding, in addition to making violations punishable by up to $100,000 in fines and up to six months in prison. There are exemptions for facilities that do rehabilitation and research, but the bill still requires that animals be returned to the wild, and that those animals who are not releasable be kept in sea pens.

The state doesn’t currently have any cetaceans in captivity, but it does have a long and sordid history involving orca captures in the past that are believed to be responsible for decimating the population of southern resident killer whales, whose numbers still have not fully recovered.

One of those orcas who was taken from Washington waters is Lolita, who has spent more than four decades at the Miami Seaquarium after being torn from her family.

While her advocates are working to see her returned home to her family off the coast, lawmakers in the state are stepping up to make sure no more cetaceans suffer the way Lolita and others of her kind have, and hope to send a strong message that keeping cetaceans in tanks is no longer acceptable.

“There are no shortage of heartbreaking stories about the negative effects a life in captivity has on these highly intelligent creatures,” Ranker said in a statement. “Washington is fortunate to share its waters with orcas and many other species. There is no good reason to put these animals at risk through captivity.”

As the tide of public opinion continues to turn against using whales and dolphins for captivity, the industry continues to grasp at justifications for confining them and using them as performers. Despite its best efforts to convince the public captivity is a necessary evil, more and more places continue to turn against it and are instead looking for ways to protect marine mammals in their natural environments.

Last year, similar legislation was proposed in New York and in California. California’s bill called for a ban on orca captivity and retirement for state’s current residents to sea pens. California is home to approximately one-fifth of all captive orcas (there are now 57 in total), which makes it a prime place to enact a ban. A vote on that one is pending further study into the issue and the logistics of retirement.

As for Washington’s progress, the Senate Natural Resources and Parks Committee decided not to vote on the bill earlier this month, but this week Representative Brian Blake and David Sawyer introduced an identical version (HB 2115) in the House so the effort to protect cetaceans from captivity is far from over. You can show your support for banning whales and dolphins in captivity in Washington by commenting on the bill here.

Read more: []

Re: 'Blackfish' Backlash: Fan Pressure Leads Willie Nelson to Cancel SeaWorld Concert

February 25, 2015 11:45PM

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Only 81 of These Killer Whales Are Left, but Their Chances of Survival Just Got a Big Boost

The federal government wants to greatly expand protections for the Southern Resident orcas off the West coast.

February 25, 2015 By Emily Geartz

The Obama administration will nearly quadruple the protected habitat of the Southern Resident killer whale, the world’s most endangered orca.

Only 81 Southern Resident killer whales remain, but the United States National Marine Fisheries Service announced this week that it intends to protect as many as 9,000 square miles of ocean off Washington, Oregon, and Northern California to increase the orcas’ chances of survival.

NMFS stated that it will make its final decision in 2017. The two-year delay worries Miyoko Sakashita, oceans director for the Center for Biological Diversity, which petitioned the agency last year to expand the whales’ protected habitat.

“The agency is taking a really important step forward,” she said. “Time is of the essence in protecting these orcas, and we’d like to see the rule come out sooner.”

Still, Sakashita believes the move is a big win for the Southern Resident killer whales, whose population has fallen from about 100 over the past two decades. The expansion means government agencies, commercial fishing operators, and developers that must obtain federal permits for offshore activities will need to show they won’t harm the orcas.

Satellite tracking has revealed that in addition to hanging around islands off Washington state, the Southern Resident killer whales often forage farther south; rivers in Oregon and California provide inland habitat for chinook salmon and other fish that are their preferred prey.

With many of these salmon runs depleted, insufficient food has become a major factor in the whales’ decline.

Conservation groups, hydropower regulators, and federal wildlife officials have been skirmishing for years over protections for endangered salmon. The expanded orca habitat could improve conditions for the fish as well, Sakashita said.

How much the expanded protections will impact offshore energy operations depends mostly on how far offshore developers operate. Other than wave energy, which requires a federal license, any projects happening in state waters would not trigger an endangered species review. Federally managed waters begin 3.5 miles from the coast.

Shipping routes could be affected though.

Along the Atlantic Coast, the federal government has set vessel speed limits in recent years along the migration route for Northern right whales. The limits have reduced the number of right whales struck by ships, which are one of the major threats to the extremely rare whale.

Note: Tilikum and Lolita are Southern residents still held in captivity.

Re: 'Blackfish' Backlash: Fan Pressure Leads Willie Nelson to Cancel SeaWorld Concert

February 27, 2015 01:30AM

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Vacationers Vote With Their Feet on SeaWorld Controversy
The post-‘Blackfish’ fallout continues for the world’s largest chain of marine parks.

February 26, 2015 By Taylor Hill

SeaWorld’s bottom line sagged a little bit further this past quarter.

It’s just the latest bad news for SeaWorld, which has delivered a number of rocky financial reports in the past 18 months.

According to the company’s latest earnings report, released Thursday, its 11 parks saw a 2.2 percent drop in attendance and a $25 million loss in revenue in the past quarter. While that’s not as bad as the prior quarter’s 5.2 percent attendance drop, the company’s earning reports are starting to feel like déjà vu.

Since the 2013 release of Blackfish—a documentary that questioned the safety and ethics of the company’s killer whale programs—public scrutiny and criticism of SeaWorld and its treatment of captive killer whales has increased.

In 2014, overall attendance at the company’s parks dropped from 23.4 million to 22.3 million, and profits dipped $80 million compared with last year.

Washington and California are mulling statewide bans on keeping orcas in captivity for entertainment.

To stem the tide of bad opinion, SeaWorld announced plans to put its whales in bigger tanks and has ended the tourist-friendly dolphin feeding program at its Orlando theme park.

Here’s a look at SeaWorld’s stock-price roller coaster since the company’s 2013 initial public offering.

SeaWorld Visits Drop
(Infographic: Courtesy
See link for infographic


A Marine Park’s Stumbling Stock Price

Jan. 19, 2013
Blackfish premieres at the Sundance Film Festival.

April 19, 2013
SeaWorld stock goes public.
Stock price: $33.52

Oct. 24, 2013
Blackfish premieres on CNN and goes on to air more than a dozen times, garnering 21 million viewers.
Stock price: $29.95

March 7, 2014
California lawmakers propose to ban keeping orcas in captivity.
Stock price: $33.12

Aug. 15, 2014
SeaWorld announces a 4.3 percent drop in attendance over the previous quarter.
Stock price: $18.66

Feb. 26, 2015
SeaWorld announces that there were 1 million fewer visits to its parks from 2013 to 2014.
Stock price: $19.17

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 02/27/2015 01:34AM by Alana33.

Re: 'Blackfish' Backlash: Fan Pressure Leads Willie Nelson to Cancel SeaWorld Concert

February 27, 2015 09:57PM

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Beluga Whale Dies at SeaWorld Orlando
February 20, 2015

SeaWorld has claimed another life: Nanuq, a beluga whale at SeaWorld’s Wild Arctic attraction in Orlando, Florida, died while he was being treated by the marine park’s veterinarians for an infection from a jaw injury that he sustained while interacting with another animal. SeaWorld hasn’t revealed exactly how Nanuq’s injury occurred, and the exact cause of death is not yet known.

One thing seems pretty clear, though: SeaWorld allowed Nanuq’s infection to become so severe that it was fatal. PETA is submitting a complaint to the U.S. Department of Agriculture urging the agency to investigate Nanuq’s injury and death and take appropriate disciplinary action for any violations of the Animal Welfare Act standards, such as the possible failure to provide adequate veterinary care, to handle animals in a manner that does not cause physical harm, and to house incompatible animals in separate enclosures.

Rest in peace, Nanuq.

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February 28, 2015 02:23AM

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Brutal Russian Whale Hunt Exposed: Is This the Next 'Cove?'

Demand by aquariums in China and elsewhere is driving the capture of beluga whales.

February 27, 2015 By Emily Gertz

In a trailer for the Russian documentary film Born Free, the camera follows beluga whales as they flex, turn, and glide through the dim green undersea light with a grace surprising for such stout creatures.

With their bulbous heads, stumpy snouts, and pokey front fins stuck onto long, thick bodies, belugas could be alien creatures in a 1950s science fiction story. Still, most viewers probably won’t need the score’s heart-tugging plink of piano notes to get that these ethereal white whales are perfectly formed for life in the world’s ocean.

But the music’s abrupt slide into a muddy, pulsing mix of drums and cellos underscores the brutality of the scenes that follow. In one, around a dozen belugas are crowded into narrow water pens bound with rusty wire, diving and rising anxiously while tourists look on. In another, plaid-shirted men wrestle with netted wild belugas in the shallows of a rocky beach, dragging some of them by ropes wrapped around their tails. Captured whales lie passively on the beach, out of their natural element and seemingly in shock.

Welcome to the Russian "Cove."

Wild-caught beluga whales in a holding facility at Srednyaya Cove, about 100 miles outside Vladivostok. (Photo: Courtesy Gayane Petrosyan and Maxim Lanovoy)
Gayane Petrosyan has spent nearly two years documenting the hunt for wild beluga whales in Russia, as well as their conditions in captivity. Now the Russian journalist and filmmaker hopes to expose the beluga hunt to her nation and the world, much as the 2009 Oscar-winning documentary The Cove drew the global attention to the annual slaughter of dolphins in Taiji, Japan.

“We [hope] that the film will cause a wave of public debate in Russia, which in turn will help change state laws to protect the rights of animals,” Petrosyan said in an email.

“Whales and dolphins should come back into the wild,” added Tatiana Beley, the film’s creative producer and writer, “excepting the rare cases when it’s impossible because of their physical and mental health.”

The belugas are conditioned before being sold to aquariums. They must learn to accept being fed by people, or starve.

It is hard to find exact figures for how many Russian belugas are captured from year to year in commercial hunts. The single hunting team working during the 2012 season captured 44 belugas, according to an interview with marine mammal researcher Dmitri Glazov published on the official Kremlin website. That number was a record high, according to Glazov.

But in 2013, the Russian government approved an apparently unprecedented live beluga take of just over 260 whales: 18 for scientific research and 245 for sale to marine parks and aquariums. The enormous quota prompted Glazov and biologist Olga Shpak to go to the Sea of Okhotsk, off Russia’s eastern coast, to observe the hunt. That year they observed at least 81 whales taken from the wild.

The holding facilities also sell tickets to visitors who want to view the belugas. (Photo: Courtesy Gayane Petrosyan and Maxim Lanovoy)
Activists say that the quota has risen because demand—and prices—for the animals have soared.

“They’re selling them to China, to facilities in Russia—there are lots of little dolphinariums all over the place, and nearly each one has a beluga,” said Naomi Rose, a marine mammal scientist with the Animal Welfare Institute.

Aquariums in other Asian countries as well as Canada also buy the animals, she added.

In 2013 some U.S. parks and aquariums tried and failed to get a federal permit to import 18 belugas from Russia.

A U.S.-based Russian fisheries official did not respond to a request for comment on the country’s beluga whale policies.

Men wrestle a netted beluga whale onto a trailer during the summer 2012 hunt on Chkalov Island, a coastal island at the southern end of the Sea of Okhotsk. (Video courtesty of Gayane Petrosyan and Evgeniy Tagiltsev.) Please see link for video and images:


Masha Vorontsova is a biologist and the director of programs in Russia and the former Soviet republics for the International Fund for Animal Welfare. She confirmed that China’s demand is driving up the number of belugas removed from the wild.

As China becomes richer and more urbanized, she said, “every big city is building an oceanarium,” and each wants the prestige of owning a beluga whale.

During the mid-2000s, Vorontsova said, IFAW worked with a sympathetic official at the Russian Ministry of Natural Resources to halt permits for beluga hunts. Marine mammal exports ceased for about four years, she said, until a new and less interested minister took his place, and the hunts resumed.

“The problem here [in Russia] is that individual people are making a lot of money” selling wild-caught belugas, she said. “They’re paying for the expedition and the hunt but not the resource,” Vorontsova said. “If the government started making permits very expensive, it would become a lot less profitable” to hunt the white whales.

In their report to the International Whaling Commission on the 2013 hunt, Shpak and Glazov described how three teams of hunters used motorboats to surround groups of belugas in Sakhalinsky Bay with nets. Two of the teams drove the whales into shallow water for capture, while the third netted them in deep water.

Shpak and Glazov reported that of the 81 belugas captured during their observations, at least 34 died during the hunt. But the mortality rate was likely higher, they believed, because several dead whales with entanglement marks on their bodies washed up on nearby islands. One of these, a young beluga, had a rope and the remains of a sand-filled sack tied around its tail.

“Some (we believe, all) captured whales, which did not adjust to captivity and were later released unreported, were ‘replaced’ by additional captures,” Shpak and Glazov reported.

Whales that survive the hunt must then endure days of transportation across hundreds of miles, by ship or river barge, to facilities in the region’s larger cities, such as Vladivostok. In these way stations the belugas are conditioned for captivity.

“This is really a place to break the psychology of the animal, which has to understand at some point that it will either die of hunger or eat dead fish from a person's hands,” says Grigory Tsidulko, a former marine mammal trainer at the Moscow State Zoo, in the film’s trailer.

Sale of beluga whales is not banned under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, the chief international pact on wildlife trade, because globally belugas are still considered abundant. But different populations often have distinct social and genetic characteristics, according to biologists, which can be lost if that group of belugas is depleted or dies out.

Rose was introduced to Petrosyan during a marine mammal science conference in St. Petersburg last year. After seeing some of Petrosyan’s footage, Rose agreed be interviewed on camera and has since become an enthusiastic public supporter of the project.

She said she witnessed “inappropriate” conditions for belugas in three Russian facilities. They included one in St. Petersburg that housed two belugas, a dolphin, a walrus, and a sea lion in what she described as “a former Olympic training pool from the 1980s.” The animals performed for the public in the deep end, while the shallow end was curtained off as a holding area.

“Gayane got behind the cloth,” she said, and filmed the animals lying listlessly in cages and pens. “It’s horrendous,” she said. “One of the belugas was lying at the bottom of the pool; it was alive but just sort of holding its breath, behaving abnormally.”

“She’s doing this right when it needs to be done, because the situation is spiraling out of control,” said Rose. “But she’s taking some risks…so international distribution [for the film] is important.”

Vorontsova agreed that poor conditions for belugas and other marine mammals are a nationwide problem in Russia.

Her organization has also supported Born Free by allowing Petrosyan to film wild belugas at an IFAW whale study site on the White Sea. Petrosyan “is very dedicated,” said Vorontsova. “My staff met with her and said she’s very determined to make the film, that she really believes what’s going on is wrong.”

Petrosyan and Beley have raised more than $30,000 on crowdfunding site Indiegogo to complete the film.

The situation for belugas and other marine mammals in Russia may change if the public takes it up, Vorontsova said. President Vladimir Putin has at times taken an interest in wild belugas, she noted, and might not oppose moves to slow or end the hunt.

There are signs that members of the Russian public are beginning to turn against the treatment of belugas at aquariums.

“It was very similar to a concentration camp,” a young man says in the film. “I had the impression we bought tickets to look at prisoners.”

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 02/28/2015 02:24AM by Alana33.

Re: 'Blackfish' Backlash: Fan Pressure Leads Willie Nelson to Cancel SeaWorld Concert

February 28, 2015 09:28AM

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Endangered Orcas Are One Step Closer to More Protection
Alicia Graef
Feb 27, 2015

There have been a lot of highs and lows for endangered orcas living in the Pacific Northwest recently, but the latest news involving efforts to ensure their future survival brings hope that they may get more protection.

Orcas exist in the wild all over the world, but these orcas are a distinct population that are made up of three pods (J,K and L) who are otherwise known as the Southern Resident killer whales. In the 1960s, there were an estimated 140 living in the Pacific, but live captures for public display caused their numbers to drop drastically.

Even though live captures have been banned and the orcas have received federal protection, along with millions spent on research and recovery efforts, orcas have yet to make a comeback.

This week the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) brought some good news however when it announced it would consider a petition filed by the Center for Biological Diversity that the orca’s critical protected habitat should be expanded.

In 2006, roughly 2,500 square miles off the coast of Washington was designated as critical habitat, and so protecting the orcas’ in summer months, but orcas travel much further south along the coast during the winter. According to the Center, another 9,000 square miles of important offshore habitat along the coast of Washington, Oregon and California, needs to be protected. They argue that human activities in these areas are threatening the orcas’ future survival by “reducing salmon numbers, generating toxic pollution and increasing ocean noise, which disrupts the orcas’ ability to communicate and locate prey.”

The NMFS will now be collecting information to develop a proposed rule for the new habitat designation but it’s not expected until 2017, so while this week’s announcement is good news, it won’t bring any immediate changes.

Hopefully the orcas’ population will at least hold steady while efforts are underway to increase these vital protections. Even though orca numbers are still worryingly low, there have been some new additions in recent months that have brought reasons to be optimistic.

Earlier this month a second calf was spotted with the J pod and just this week yet another newborn was spotted among the L pod, marking the third birth in just three months. While advocates are hesitant to fully celebrate until they see if these calves survive their first year, the new additions are offering hope for their future.

We can also hope that Lolita, a member of the L pod who has spent more than four decades in a tank at the Miami Seaquarium, may soon return to her home waters and rejoin her family. She was recently granted the same protection her relatives already have under the Endangered Species Act, giving her advocates hope the listing will help free her. Her legal team is expected back in court towards the end of March.

In the meantime, we can help the Southern Residents by supporting campaigns to restore salmon, which the orcas rely on for food. For more info on these orcas and the different ways you can help, visit the Orca Network, Center for Whale Research and Whale and Dolphin Conservation.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 02/28/2015 09:30AM by Alana33.

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March 03, 2015 09:33AM

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Finally, a Reason to Hope for the World’s Most Endangered Marine Mammal

Mexico has announced a new policy to save the vaquita, a tiny porpoise on the brink of extinction.

March 01, 2015 By Kristina Bravo

From the little blue macaw to the Javan tiger, many animals have vanished under our watch. The long list is poised to soon include another: the vaquita, a tiny porpoise found only in the Gulf of California.

This Could Be the Last Chance to Save Mexico's Vaquita Porpoise From Extinction

It’s the most endangered marine mammal on the planet, and a last-ditch effort by the Mexican government gives the fewer than 100 vaquitas remaining their final chance at survival. Mexico’s environment ministry this week announced a new policy that would ban gill nets—in which vaquitas, which grow about four feet long, get trapped and die—for two years across the northern Gulf of California. The thousands of local fishers who use them to catch shrimp, mostly for the U.S. market, will be compensated for their loss.

The policy will take effect in March. Fishers and others who depend on shrimp catch will receive installments of $72 million over two years.

“I really think that this is the last chance, and we had better get our act together,” Omar Vidal, director of World Wildlife Fund Mexico, told The New York Times. “I think the government is very serious.”

During the two-year ban, researchers will work to improve vaquita-safe fishing gear more effective for catching shrimp (fishers say the current nets don’t let them catch enough to take care of their families).

Whether the policy will work remains to be seen, but it’s not the first time the Mexican government has worked to save the mammals. It created a 500-square-mile refuge area for vaquitas in 2005 and has paid fishers not to fish within the refuge. These efforts decreased the annual population decline from 10 percent to 5 percent, but that rate then jumped to at least 18 percent. The major reason isn’t shrimp catching but the illegal fishing of another endangered species, the totoaba. Fishers catch them with gill nets for their swim bladders, a delicacy that fetches up to $10,000 per kilogram in China, where it’s believed to improve fertility and skin conditions.

According to the environment ministry, the Mexican navy will team up with officials to impose the gill net ban and put an end to illegal fishing. Drones and satellite tracking will be used as well.

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March 03, 2015 09:40AM

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The Unseen Threat to Marine Mammals That You Can Help Stop

A global network of divers is campaigning against 'ghost fishing'—abandoned nets that trap and kill seals, dolphins, and other ocean life.

August 06, 2014 By Kristina Bravo

A few years ago, veteran diver Heather Hamza started hearing about “ghost fishing.” That’s what happens when discarded fishing nets and other gear continue to trap and kill marine mammals.

Not many people know about ghost fishing. But Hamza and Ghost Fishing, a Netherlands-based global network of volunteer divers, aim to change that.

Estimates of the number of marine critters killed by derelict fishing gear are hard to come by, though Hamza has seen firsthand the devastation during the diving missions she coordinates in Southern California.

“We have personally rescued sharks, crabs, and fish,” she said. “Unfortunately, marine mammals, by the time we get to them, they're already dead. They drown even though they can stay underwater for a very long time. The chances of finding a sea lion still alive are slim to none. So we have to cut out many carcasses.”

It becomes especially problematic for species that take years to reach sexual maturity. Killing just a couple of the animals—sharks, whales, sea turtles, and certain types of sea birds, among others—before they have reproduced can wipe out entire generations, according to Hamza.

A nurse by training, Hamza doesn’t eat seafood, and she said eating less of it or not at all is the most effective thing people can do to eliminate ghost fishing. “I know for a lot of people that’s not going to happen,” she said.

Chuck Kopczak, curator of ecology for the California Science Center, agreed.

"The ultimate thing would be reducing our consumption of seafood, which is easier said than done,” said Kopczak. “But people can try to find out how what they choose to eat is caught and avoid species caught with gill nets, which are typically the ones that catch target species along with anything else that goes into it."

“All kinds of bycatch that are caught and simply thrown back over the sea dead—which is a terrible waste of those animals,” he added.

Diving and collecting nets hundreds of feet below sea level is a dangerous task, and the Ghost Fishing divers—whose day jobs range from scuba instruction to engineering—are all volunteers.

An Italian company that recycles the nets collected by the Ghost Fishing team pays for the boats used. The divers pay for the equipment while organizing educational outreach to promote better fishing practices and consumer awareness. This year Ghost Fishing is teaming up with the Discovery Channel’s "Shark Week" to publicize the problem.

Most people know not to eat shark fin soup, for instance, said Hamza. “But you have all these commercial fishing nets and all kinds of other commercial fishing apparatus that are extremely detrimental to sharks and lots of other animals. We just really need to be aware of where our food is coming from.”

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March 05, 2015 10:27PM

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Ringling Bros. Frees Its Elephants—Are Killer Whales Next?

The circus concedes public pressure prompted it to stop using elephants as entertainment.

March 05, 2015 By David Kirby

Will Ringling Bros.’ surprising decision to end the use of elephants in its circus shows by 2018 prove to be the beginning of the end of wild animal entertainment?

It’s too soon to tell. But one lesson from the move is clear: When it comes to companies engaging in controversial practices, public pressure works.

The circus’s parent company, Feld Entertainment, said the “unprecedented” decision was based on two main factors.

“There’s been somewhat of a mood shift among our consumers,” Alana Feld, the company’s executive vice president, told The Associated Press. “A lot of people aren’t comfortable with us touring with our elephants.”

Meanwhile, company president Kenneth Feld pointed to a growing list of cities and counties that have passed “anti-circus” and “anti-elephant” ordinances.

“This decision was not easy, but it is in the best interest of our company, our elephants, and our customers,” Feld said in a statement.

Animal rights activists were quick to claim victory and proclaim the coming demise of this form of entertainment.

The decision was a “Berlin Wall moment for animal protection,” Wayne Pacelle, chief executive of The Humane Society of the United States, wrote on the group’s website.

“With consumers now so alert to animal welfare issues, no business involved in any overt form of animal exploitation can survive in the long run,” Pacelle said.

A representative for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals also said that shifting public attitudes prompted the “Greatest Show on Earth” to retire its elephants.

“There’s no doubt that Ringling’s decision to end elephant acts is a direct result of public pressure from activists,” said Brittany Peet, PETA’s director of captive animal law enforcement.

Peet added that the company was also looking after its bottom line, calling the move “pragmatic and economic.”

The circus industry has long been under attack by animal rights groups.

“Elephants, tigers, bears, camels, zebras, and other animals spend their lives on the road virtually year round, shuffled from parking lot to parking lot, locked in tiny cages and on train cars or trucks for days at a time,” according to In Defense of Animals. “They are trained with physical punishment: bull hooks, whips, electrical prods, and other devices.”

Meanwhile, thanks in part to public opprobrium and legislative action, many U.S. circuses have decided to forgo the use of animals in their shows.

So if the United States’ most famous circus can make such a bold move, how might that impact other circuses, traveling animal shows, and parks that use wild animals for entertainment, such as SeaWorld?

SeaWorld has faced fierce opposition to its display of marine mammals, largely driven by the documentary Blackfish, which excoriated the company for its treatment of captive orcas. The company has also fought bills to ban orca captivity, such as recent efforts in California, New York, and Washington state.

“We absolutely think that all entertainment centers like SeaWorld that keep marine animals in captivity, especially in light of dropping attendance rates after the release of Blackfish, will be taking note,” Priscilla Ma, U.S. executive director of World Animal Protection, said in an email.

Even as they applauded Ringling’s decision, activists said it did not go far enough, noting that the circus will still use tigers, horses, dogs, and other animals while continuing to showcase elephants over the next three years.

“A lot can happen in the intervening time, and I’m not sure why the company isn’t implementing it sooner,” Cathy Liss, president of the Animal Welfare Institute, said in an email. “Regardless, it is significant that, after claiming there can be no circus without elephants, Ringling Bros. is now suggesting it can do just that.”

Then there’s the fate of the 13 elephants appearing in the circus’ shows. Ringling Bros. said they will be sent to its Center for Elephant Conservation in Florida, which the company calls a “state-of-the-art facility dedicated to the conservation, breeding, and understanding of these amazing animals.”

But according to the PETA-run website Ringling Bros. Beats Animals, life at the center is not ideal. A former employee, Sam Haddock, gave PETA photographs of how some animals are allegedly mistreated.


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 03/05/2015 10:30PM by Alana33.

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March 06, 2015 04:19PM

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A Berlin Wall Moment for Animal Protection | Wayne Pacelle: A Humane Nation

Thu, Mar 05 2015

With ethologists and other scientists demonstrating that animals have complex social and behavioral needs, we are no longer in denial about the lives and minds of elephants and other animals.

It’s surely one of the biggest announcements of the modern era in animal protection: Ringling Bros. has announced that it will cease itsuseofelephantsin its traveling circus.

I’ve been a witness to and participant in big moments during my three decades of work in animal protection: banning cockfighting in Louisiana to make it the 50th state to end the practice; declaring victory on California’sProp 2 to end extreme confinement of farm animals as the votes streamed in; getting word from McDonald’s that it would stop buyinggestation cratepork. And this is right up there with them.

While the number of animals affected here is fewer than in these victories, or countless others that we’ve helped to drive, the result here may be as impactful, or even more so. This was a company that fought animal welfare groups at every turn before city councils, in state legislatures, within Congress, in the courts, and in the press. The company infiltrated several nonprofit organizations by placing spies in them. Its leadership seemed to have limitless resources, and a fierce resolve to keep the elephants so deeply associated with its brand.

And now, just like that, the company announces it will cease, by 2018, its use of elephants in circuses. Get the confetti and streamers. Grab the kids and the dog. Put on the party hat. Head over to the parade. Jump on what remains of the fallen wall and raise your arms.

Ringling Bros. cited the number of cities and counties that have recently adopted ordinances to restrict the use of elephants in circuses as contributing to its decision. And there’s no question that the documentary Blackfish, and the enormous public response to the treatment of orcas at SeaWorld was also a contributing factor. But the outcome was ordained by factors larger than any one thing.

Movements rise and fall based on their success in winning the hearts and minds of regular people. With South Dakota making cruelty a felony last year, making it the 50th state to do so, Americans across the board have now accepted the notion that cruelty is wrong. With ethologists and other scientists demonstrating, in indisputable ways, that animals have complex social and behavioral needs, we are no longer in denial about the lives and minds of elephants and other animals. And with the world shrinking, in terms of communications and so much information available to us, any business built on the backs of exploiting animals cannot long endure.

Smart businesses purge their companies of cruelty and substitute something different, and they move on. The best of them thrive because they can then tap into the love and appreciation that so many millions of Americans have for animals.

The HSUS has been a bitter opponent of Ringling Bros. for many a year. We’ve never liked, nor accepted, what they do to animals in their care. But kudos to their leaders for recognizing that as the world changes, they can embrace that new world, instead of fighting it forever. Good for them for embracing it, even if it’s later than we’d wished, and we urge them to retire their use of all wild animals in their traveling act. But today, they have taken a big, hearty, important step toward joining the humane economy, and we celebrate it.

The post A Berlin WallMomentforAnimal Protection appeared first on A HumaneNation.

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March 06, 2015 08:34PM

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Seaworld's Accreditation Under Fire

Written by PETA | March 2, 2015

This morning, PETA submitted official comments to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) calling on the organization not to renew SeaWorld’s accreditation, to be decided this month at the AZA Accreditation Commission hearing.

As documented by PETA, whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment,” SeaWorld’s continued disregard for the animals in its care stands in violation of many of the AZA’s accreditation standards, which require that all animals be well cared for and housed in appropriate settings and that accredited facilities provide visitors with an educational experience while meeting the animals’ physical, psychological, and social needs.

“SeaWorld has sentenced far-ranging marine mammals to a lifetime of suffering in physically and psychologically damaging tiny concrete tanks,” says PETA Foundation Deputy General Counsel Delcianna Winders. “PETA is calling on the Association of Zoos and Aquariums to hold SeaWorld accountable for its colossal failure to provide the animals it holds captive with a sufficient standard of care.”

In the wild, orcas share intricate relationships, traverse vast expanses of ocean every day, and work cooperatively to find food. At SeaWorld, they are forced to perform circus-style tricks for food and are sometimes even given the drug diazepam to manage stress-induced aggressive behavior. Following the release of Blackfish, attendance at SeaWorld parks dropped, businesses ended longtime partnerships with it, and it was named one of the worst companies in the U.S. in a Consumerist poll.

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March 09, 2015 10:39AM

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Spanish aquarium trainer found dead in airport parking lot after video allegedly shows him kicking, hitting dolphins:

BY RACHELLE BLIDNER NEW YORK DAILY NEWS Published: Saturday, March 7, 2015

Jose Luis Barbero went missing hours before a video was released accusing him of abusing dolphins at Marineland Mallorca.
Jose Luis Barbero went missing hours before a video was released accusing him of abusing dolphins at Marineland Mallorca. An animal rights group alleges Barbero kicked and hit dolphins. The first video released was blurry, causing the Georgia Aquarium to say it looked ‘distorted.’ The Georgia Aquarium was hoping to hire Barbero as a new Vice President.

Jose Luis Barbero went missing hours before a video was released accusing him of abusing dolphins at Marineland Mallorca.

The missing dolphin trainer, on track to be one of Georgia Aquarium’s top executives, was found dead in an apparent suicide after a video allegedly showed him abusing dolphins, according to reports.

The body of Jose Luis Barbero, of Mallorca, Spain, was discovered in a black Peugot 407 in the Palma de Mallorca airport parking lot Saturday after an intensive four-day search, Diario de Mallorca reported.

The 59-year-old trainer was expected to start as Vice President of the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta this week, but his start date was postponed when animal activists leaked the video, WSB-TV reported.

The aquarium’s CEO slammed groups that “rushed to judge” Barbero as he faced allegations of beating up dolphins. The attacks on social media apparently included death threats against his family.

“It was with sadness, outrage and frustration that I received the news this morning that Jose Luis Barbero was found dead in Spain,” CEO Mike Leven said in a statement. “He was not given the right or the privilege to be considered innocent until proven guilty, a principle I hold dear. His death is ultimately, unnecessary and unjust.”

Activists released a blurry video allegedly showing Barbero and other dolphin trainers kicking and hitting dolphins at Marineland Mallorca, where he was a director. The trainers on the Mediterranean island off the coast of Spain allegedly yelled at the creatures, calling them "lazy bones" and "sluts."

Leven wishes the aquarium had had more time to independently investigate the allegations against Barbero before he died.

“I hope the death of Jose Luis Barbero teaches those who were quick to condemn him a lesson about being hasty to charge and indict,” Leven added.

Activists released a clearer video with fewer edits Thursday, two days after Barbero vanished. He was last seen leaving his home amid threats. The ordeal sent Barbero's wife to the hospital because of stress, Leven told WSB-TV.

Before Barbero was found, the aquarium said it's hired a former FBI agent to head to Spain to investigate his disappearance, 11Alive reported.

Leven said the aquarium also hired forensic experts to analyze the roughly edited video, which appeared "doctored." He said the aquarium would not determine Barbero's future with the company until after a thorough investigation.

"We have a zero tolerance policy against the mistreatment of animals and continue to investigate every aspect of this matter," the aquarium said in a statement.

Marineland Mallorca denied the abuse allegations and plans to take legal action against the animal rights group, CNN reported.


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 03/09/2015 10:41AM by Alana33.

Re: 'Blackfish' Backlash: Fan Pressure Leads Willie Nelson to Cancel SeaWorld Concert

March 09, 2015 10:44AM

Registered: 6 years ago
Posts: 12,078

When Orcas aren't performing:


Re: 'Blackfish' Backlash: Fan Pressure Leads Willie Nelson to Cancel SeaWorld Concert

March 10, 2015 02:41AM

Registered: 6 years ago
Posts: 12,078

SeaWorld Suspends Captive Sea Lion Shows to Save Wild Pups in Peril

The company, slammed for its treatment of marine mammals, is helping to rescue starving young sea lions in California.

March 09, 2015 By David Kirby

SeaWorld San Diego’s decision to suspend its sea lion and otter show so that trainers can help rescue hundreds of starving sea lion pups in California has left the company’s critics in something of a paradoxical pickle.

The company on Saturday stopped the popular show for two weeks as six trainers from San Diego, along with staff members from SeaWorld parks in San Antonio, Texas, and Orlando, Florida, loaded into rescue vehicles to assist in the effort to pull 20 emaciated sea lion infants each day from San Diego County beaches.

A scarcity of prey fish in coastal waters is thought to be behind the crisis.

So far, SeaWorld has rescued at least 400 pups in 2015, twice the number it usually saves in a full year. The animals will be sheltered in two temporary tanks being installed at the San Diego park.

“These experts will…provide the added benefit of tremendous experience working with sea lions,” SeaWorld said in a statement.

For years, anti-captivity activists have argued that SeaWorld should abandon its animal performances altogether and focus exclusively on the company’s stated mission of “rescue, rehabilitation and release” of wild marine mammals. That sentiment increased dramatically after the 2013 release of the documentary Blackfish.

Many SeaWorld critics are lauding the decision to suspend the show, but they maintain that it does not let the company off the hook when it comes to its treatment of captive marine mammals.

“I'm encouraged to see SeaWorld direct its considerable resources toward helping in this tragic situation for California sea lions,” Samantha Berg, a former trainer at SeaWorld Orlando and an anti-captivity activist who was featured in Blackfish, said in an email.

“However, their efforts need to be held in light of the ethically unjustified source of their business resources: captivity and circus-style animal entertainment,” she added. “Let’s encourage SeaWorld to explore true conservation and education as a new basis for a sustainable business model, leaving animal exploitation and silly shows as a thing of the past.”

Berg noted that other organizations along the Pacific Coast are also helping with sea lion rescues, but they are nonprofit groups funded through donations, not from revenue generated through shows.

“Kudos for rescue and rehab,” Jeffrey Ventre, another Blackfish cast member and former SeaWorld trainer, said in an email. “It’s bittersweet, though, and doesn’t justify circus shows.”

Ventre noted that SeaWorld has been cited by state regulators for polluting San Diego’s Mission Bay, adding that “environmental degradation is one reason these sea lions need rescuing.”

SeaWorld spokesman Fred Jacobs did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but it’s clear the company has no intention of permanently shuttering its sea lion and otter shows.

SeaWorld San Diego suspended the show for at least two weeks but plans to resume it at some point. In San Antonio, the show is on hiatus until May, pending an exhibit redesign.

In Orlando, a revamped sea lion and otter show was just unveiled for annual pass holders.

“The new setting is the halls of academia,” the Orlando Sentinel reported. “The set now resembles scenes from a high school,” the newspaper said, adding that the new show “has an emphasis on the importance of learning.”

Show segments include tango and salsa lessons “and a comic bit with Seamore feigning a flipper injury in order to get out of gym class,” the Sentinel said.

(Poor Sea Lions and Otters! - People need to stop attending these displays of forced performances by captive marine mammals! One has to wonder if all those rescued Sea Lion pups will be returned to the wild or if some will end up as future performers at a Sea World show.)

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 03/10/2015 02:51AM by Alana33.

Re: 'Blackfish' Backlash: Fan Pressure Leads Willie Nelson to Cancel SeaWorld Concert

March 13, 2015 08:03AM

Registered: 6 years ago
Posts: 12,078

Jean-Michel Cousteau's Statement on Captive Orcas & the Trainer Killed at Sea World


Re: 'Blackfish' Backlash: Fan Pressure Leads Willie Nelson to Cancel SeaWorld Concert

March 13, 2015 06:31PM

Registered: 6 years ago
Posts: 12,078

I've posted this link before but if you haven't already seen it, please do.

Or how about this one? Still feeling good about captivity for these magnificent creatures?


Let's see this one:


Let's stop this!

Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 03/13/2015 07:21PM by Alana33.

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