Skip to content

Will Seaworld ever accept responsibility for what they did to the Southern Resident killer whales?

February 21, 2011
SeaWorld boasts about their conservation efforts. Yet when will the day come when SeaWorld take a stand and accepts responsibility for the damage they caused to the  Southern Resident killer whale  population ? Did you know not one of SeaWorld’s orca whales are or have been actually rescued orcas or classified as unreleasable orcas?  Not one!  All the orca whales SeaWorld owns have been wild caught or captive born.
Starting around 1965 Marine parks,  including SeaWorld  started taking wild orcas from U.S. waters for display in captivity.  These orcas were taken from the Southern Resident Washington, Northern Resdients and some transients orcas of British Columbia.
Sadly, not all the wild caught orcas SeaWorld accumulated during this time survived in captivity. Therefore once again in 1976, SeaWorld sent representatives out to Puget Sound, Washington to take more of the Southern Residents and move them into captivity once again. At this time, Former Washington Secretary of State Ralph Munro witnessed one of these captures, where he described a tragic story of whaling and brutal captures that split apart whale pods and resulted in the collateral damage deaths of dozens of marine animals. Munro witnessed one of the captures in which an aircraft and explosives were used. Munro subsequently filed a lawsuit that led to an agreement with SeaWorld to stay out of Puget Sound.
John Dodge, a journalist, who was also on hand that day described the experience

“The Munros were in their sailboat that day. They watched the violent whale capture and heard the whales inside and outside the nets, crying to one another in their little-understood language.

I was on the shoreline, a (Evergreen State College) student, working as a reporter for the Cooper Point Journal, and was struck deeply by those same eerie cries. Those sounds are etched in my memory and the Munros’ memories forever.

“When we went sailing and saw this accidentally, it changed our lives,” Munro said.

It turned out to be the last whale capture in the United States, the result of lawsuits and public pressure championed at the time by Munro, his boss, Gov. Dan Evans, state Attorney General Slade Gorton and others in the small whale-conservation camp.”

Fortunately Munro stepped in when he did, as he basically saved the entire remainder of Southern Resident whales we have come to know and love so dearly. Eventually SeaWorld would turn to Finland and other countries to obtain their wild orca’s. Public pressure to stop taking from the wild would lead to desperation of SeaWorld to start their own captive orca breeding program instead of stopping the housing of captive orcas in general.

SeaWorld’s orca captures played a huge role in placing the Southern Resident orcas in danger at one time and now the Southern Residents are in trouble once again due to pollution and lack of food coupled with a their already low count due to orca hunts in the 70’s.
“During the 1960s and early 1970s, “at least 68 [Southern and Northern Resident] whales were removed or killed during capture operations for public display.” (AR 6 at 43). As a result of a shortage of reproductive females due to those capture operations, the Southern Resident population declined by approximately twelve percent between 1980 and 1984. Id. at 31. The population then grew and stabilized as more female orcas became reproductively mature.”
Yet once again just 7 years after the lawsuit that led to an agreement with SeaWorld to stay out of Puget Sound, SeaWorld began seeking more wild orcas to capture from U.S. waters. Despite the dwindling populations of the Southern Residents, SeaWorld was ready to affect other pods in the same manner they had done to the Southern Residents. SeaWorld had not learned their lesson and again showed lack of responsibility or concern for wild orca populations, conservation and preservation.
In March 1983, SeaWorld applied for a permit to capture 100 killer whales for purposes of scientific research and public display. Sea World requested permission to collect up to 100 killer whales over a five-year period from Alaska and California coastal waters. Up to ten killer whales would be maintained permanently in captivity for research and display, and up to 90 would be held temporarily (no more than three weeks) for research. The numerous scientific tests proposed included liver biopsies, gastric lavages, hearing and respiratory tests, tooth extractions, and blood tests. Sea World also proposed to tag, mark, and attach radio transmitters to killer whales held temporarily.
On November 1, 1983, the Service issued a permit to Sea World authorizing the permanent removal of up to 10 killer whales and the temporary capture of up to 90. The permit imposed several conditions that were not present in Sea World’s original application.
For example, one condition was that Sea World was required to conduct a study of local killer whale population in Alaska areas and to submit a report to the Service. No captures could be conducted without further authorization by the Service, and the length of temporary captures was restricted. No more than 2% of a local population could be permanently removed over a two-year period, and no more than two animals could be removed from a distinct social group (pod). Killer whales temporarily captured could be recaptured no more than twice. Many of the planned tests also required further authorization by the Service.
On May 1, 1984, Jones sought declaratory and injunctive relief against the Service in federal district court, alleging that the Service’s issuance of the permit without preparation of an environmental impact statement violated the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA), 42 U.S.C. § 4332(2)(C). Sea World intervened as a defendant, and the State of Alaska intervened as a plaintiff. On cross-motions for summary judgment, the district court granted summary judgment in favor of Jones, declared the Service permit void and invalid, and enjoined (a judicial remedy issued in order to prohibit a party from doing or continuing to do a certain activity; ) Sea World from capturing killer whales pursuant to the permit.”
SeaWorld’s permit became void all because they REFUSED to do an environmental impact report regarding the wild orcas and follow the guidelines laid out before them in the conditions of the capture permits. SeaWorld stated it was unneceassry to do the environmental impact report that was being asked of them to perform. I question why. SeaWorld claims to support conservation and education, even back then.
Conservation is preservation.
The Southern Residents are still to date trying to recuperate from the captures of their pod members and the unnecessary deaths of other family pod members by SeaWorld and other marine parks along with pollution and food loss. SeaWorld made no efforts to replace ANY orcas they removed from these pods.
There was a time when SeaWorld could have corrected their wrong doing, they could have created a release program for orcas bred in captivity. Instead SeaWorld showed no concern for their actions. They chose to breed captive orcas for themselves and their parks. They would later use the guise of conservation and education as a means to hide from public scrutiny regarding the Southern Resident killer whale’s population status and means of captures. Remember the bombs dropped into the water?
SeaWorld now can not even breed orcas for a release program due to their captive orca breeding program consisting of cross breeds and inbred gene pools that they have created. Like low-class animal breeders, their goal is to just breed and create captive born orcas for their collection. All of their captive born orcas could never be released due to damaging the wild gene pools. SeaWorld’s breeding program standards are not the standards regular breeders seek such as not inbreeding, or using aggressive male or females as top breeders or only using the best of the best to breed with. So long as SeaWorld can produce a calf, it does not matter who they breed together. This will never work for the wild gene pools, thus will never ever be able to help wild pods repopulate through the use of captive breeding programs.
SeaWorld is faced with a dilemma now, either keep crossbreeding/inbreeding or capture more whales. With hope by our side, public out cry will prevent any further wild takes of orcas in U.S. or foreign waters by SeaWorld. The problem is that it is still legal for them to apply for a permit to take orcas from the wild in the U.S. and foreign water stated by SeaWorld representative Julie Scardina  in 2010. We can not have other pods damaged as the Southern Resident population all in the name of entertainment. These whales are way more important to nature than they are to SeaWorld and our entertainment. These whales are needed for the sustainability of our eco system, not SeaWorld’s tax returns.
I ask SeaWorld before breeding any more orcas or taking more orcas from the wild to stand up and help the Southern Resident Killer Whales!
Take Responsibility!
Raise awareness in your parks about them and their survival being in jeopardy. Tell people how they can help save the Southern Residents! Give them real solutions, not just a few facts.
Fight to protect the salmon and food sources for the wild Southern Residents!
Do something that will actually impact the Southern Residents. You claim your education program is valuable and that you educate many people and that is the good you are doing and is why these animals need to remain in captivity, yet in the end it seems as though you are competing with nature.
1- 296 F.Supp.2d 1223 (2003) CENTER FOR BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY, et al., Plaintiffs, v.Robert LOHN, et al., Defendants. No. C02-2505L. United States District Court, W.D. Washington, At Seattle. December 17, 2003.
2- Jones v. Gordon 92 F.2d 821 (1986)
For more information on the Southern Resident killer whales, please visit:
Center for Whale Research
14 Comments leave one →
  1. Your worst nightmare permalink
    February 21, 2011 10:29 pm

    Wow this is bull shot that you pulled out of your ass.

    • withoutmethereisnou permalink*
      February 28, 2011 9:33 pm

      Check out the video we added in this blog, just in response to your comment about bullshot being pulled from our asses.

  2. February 23, 2011 6:16 pm

    Thank you for publishing this well-researched article, and for your advocacy for the captives. I’m on Vancouver Island, right on the coast where Lolita Tokitae’s family swims by, and just south of where Corky’s family lives.

  3. March 1, 2011 6:27 am

    This is an important piece of history. Thanks for searching out the story and these documents, and the video of Ralph telling The Story. He and his wife Karen have been dedicated to stop orca captivity every since. Just a few weeks ago Karen joined a protest for Lolita in Seattle, carrying a sign that read: “Ask me about the capture I witnessed.”

    I hope nightmare wakes up soon, but that will happen before SeaWorld ever takes responsibility for the harm they did to the orcas.

  4. Joshua permalink
    April 10, 2011 11:21 pm

    No one can deny the fact that the captures had an effect on the population back then, but this might be a bit overplayed, sounding too much like a desperate attempt to bash the marine park industry and cetacean captures from the old days when in reality the southern residents have been facing much bigger threats in the recent decades that have been responsible for their decline in population. I see no reason in beating a horse when its already dead.

    • April 11, 2011 6:14 pm

      It’s about accountability, not bashing. I do not need to bash SeaWorld, they have done it to themselves and now they and captive orca supporters such as your self want to act like it is the past and everything is just fine. It’s not. Every orca born into captivity, is an orca that is not born into the wild!

      The captures still are having an impact today….not just back then. Due to the captures numerous baby orcas were not born into the wild, including entire generations. The orcas that were taken for captivity were mostly females and babies… even the majority of the ones that were killed, were females. This in itself, brought the population down not just then, but still to date, where at this time they are struggling due to population numbers or lack of, lack of food sources along with pollution, as I mentioned in the blog.

      I am not bashing “marine parks” I am asking when will SeaWorld take responsibilty for the damage they did to the Southern Resident pods? As they claim to be this huge conservational group, yet they have done nothing to replace the animals that they stole from the ocean. They have done nothing that has helped the Southern Resident orcas, as we all can see from the dwindling numbers today…it’s not just pollution and lack of food resources.

      Conservational groups preserve, not destroy. SeaWorld was completly aware of how those orcas were being captured, the amount of damage the explosives were doing to the ocean and marine life itself and yet they still agreed to participate in the collecting and taking of the those orcas through those methods, not once but twice.
      SeaWorld even went as far as to hire one of the men who thought collecting orcas from the wild would make them huge amounts of money and fame.
      They help all kinds of animals except orcas in the wild, they get funding from the governemt to do this conservational work and there are laws that state the majority of the animals they rescue HAVE to be released back into the wild…they can not legaly keep the majority of them.. We, the tax payers, pay for the majority of conservation work and what ever else they contribute is a tax write off. They are a business and the orcas are their assets. It is not in the best intrest for SeaWorld to help wild orcas, nature is their direct competition.

      So long as SeaWorld can take orcas from the wild it is imperative the public learn the history and role SeaWorld played in the orca hunts along with the damage it creates to pods. Look at Morgan, they have a chance to help put Morgan back with her family (true conservation) and instead they want to fight for Morgan for their breeding program. Morgan would add diveristy to the captive breeding gene pool….every baby Morgan would have in captivity is one baby that would not be born into the wild.

      It’s not about beating a dead horse- I would agree with you if SeaWorld did not have captive orcas, a captive orca breeding program, were not fighting for Morgan, had been accountable for the damage they created to the Southern Resident orca pods and also were not importing/attempting to import sperm from a wild captured orca being held in captivity in a foreign country all for their breeding program. Seems to me to the horse is up and running about and the only person beating it is SeaWorld and individuals like yourself.
      I see you came from True Depths…..maybe your discussions are better kept in that forum.

    • Jordan permalink
      April 13, 2011 2:29 pm

      Hopefully this will answer your comment – this page illustrates with data and graphs of the marine park capture operations’ effects on the Southern population:

      I don’t disagree though, boat traffic, pollution and the dwindling salmon stocks have taken a big toll on the Residential populations. The captures were 40 years ago, so they have recovered since then, but are still facing troubles as of today. But it seems like for the Southern Residents, the capture of young orcas basically removed an entire generation that could have been a productive member to the ecology of that ecosystem, as well as the pod.

      There is also the negative impact of taking out genetic diversity from the pods. While the calves are related via the maternal side, all of them are a bit of a genetic “shuffle” since orcas are polygamous and mate with various males. Taking those out reduces the health of the pod’s genetic pool (I hope the way I worded it makes sense :U).

    • Seji permalink
      August 7, 2011 10:08 am

      I fail to see what dead horses have to do with this article, Joshua, nor do I view this article, or any like it, as repeating something that does not bear repeating. Some people, especially those with an intense love of money where nothing else matters, need these things repeated to them – over and over and over.

      No one is bashing the “marine park industry”. It does that by itself. Case in point: have you ever experienced the dolphin feeding pools at Sea World in San Diego? Those animals are not smiling at you, they want to kill you and it’s obvious. They look desperate, aggressive and capable of inflicting bodily harm. Common sense tells you to stay away from them. Like a smiling dog, there is no love lost in that communication.

      I have always enjoyed viewing an aquarium filled with beautiful fish or sharks, but mammals? NO.

      This hunt was barbaric and split up family pods. People described the screams of the animals as they were being slaughtered, abused and carted off to play the clown in a swimming pool for human entertainment. We have no business capturing them. If we fail to remind ourselves of our mistakes of the past, we are doomed to repeat them.

      Every time I see an orca “smile”, I cringe, for I know that it is not a smile, but the warning given before an attack, as a dog does.

      People fail to interpret that “smile” correctly. They think it’s cute and that the orca loves them or likes them, when the animal would just as soon make you it’s lunch. Perhaps we need more of those until humans learn that they can not tame the orca.

  5. Ana permalink
    May 26, 2012 7:00 pm

    I can’t believe this! Is this still going on currently?

  6. Pete permalink
    May 27, 2013 11:25 pm

    Tell the orcas to move to New Zealand waters, theres heaps of fish and no sea world.

  7. October 27, 2013 5:11 am

    I’ve decided to learn anything I can about orcas. I do believe they should be left alone
    in their natural environment. I don’t think we can leave that up to SeaWorld to comply.
    How do we raise enough money and voices to make those that are asked by SeaWorld
    for a permit to say no–it is now illegal.

    • April 1, 2014 3:58 pm

      Join facebook groups, type in orca on google, youtube,etc. There are many groups with petitions to sign, awareness, education that all support each other 🙂

  8. April 1, 2014 3:50 pm

    I doubt they will admit to anything, they didn’t admit that Tilikum’s animal profile says he lunges at trainers, didn’t admit that this was testified – ”Chuck Tompkins, Sea World corporate curator for zoological operations, testified that there are no specific steps for trainers to follow to respond to a life-threatening situation in the water and that their lives are ultimately up to their own “best judgment call.” Tompkins admitted that the park does not even re-evaluate its protocols after an injury or death because it deems the injuries “a result of human error” and insisted that revising safety protocols is unnecessary.” if that isn’t blaming Dawn I don’t know what is. They won’t admit that anything they have done with those orca’s is out of order as they are just money makers to them. To the doubters, remember they said they needed the waterworks as it would affect their business, yet brag about record attendance, are they lying then??

    Those orca need out of there. They hybrids cannot be released into the ocean but some are still pure blood – the ones who are full Icelandic are Ulises, Shouka, Kyuquot, Kasatka, Nakai, Takara, Trua, Sakari, Katina, Ikaika, Makaio, Unna, and Kohana, see the genepool in my blog, sadly though that would mean leaving behind Orkid, Kayla,Malia, Makani, Kamea, Kalia, Keet, Tuar, Keto, Skyla, Tekoa and of course Nalani and Adan who are inbred. But there is nothing to stop them having a life in a seapen with their family pods who are mostly matraline from Katina and Kasatka.

    • Jen Thompson permalink
      August 31, 2014 9:38 am

      Small points… but SW isn’t bragging about record ‘attendance,’ they are posting record PROFITS. They are actually experiencing a drop of approx. 1 million people attending their parks compared to last year. They simply raised their prices/costs/fees for shows, tickets, loaner whales and whale semen to make up for it and then some.
      Also, it was mentioned that SW had a chance at one time to create a release program for the whales born in captivity but that wasn’t/isn’t a viable option either. Orcas tend to stay together for life. Had they created this program, they STILL would have been separating babies from their mothers, leaving the babies to fend for themselves in the wild with no mature female to pass down the norms of orca behaviors. But I agree with the point that was trying to be made – if SW really cared, they would have and would be doing something constructive FOR the whales, not their wallets.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: