Although animal welfare groups have tried to get the orcas moved to sea pens, SeaWorld's killer whales may never make the change. But Sampal found a hole torn in the sea pen and freed herself. Such a structure could be significantly larger than any tank and would allow the whales to "experience the currents and swim and dive and interact with other ocean animals," says Jared Goodman, director of animal law for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. A sea pen’s barrier is made of strong netting which allows the marine water and small native species to flow freely through it. AN ORCA BREACHES IN THE SAN JUAN ISLANDS. (including Morgan and Lolita) von: Antonia A; empfänger: Joel Manby, CEO of SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment; Orcas are highly social animals who live in stable social groups ranging from two to 15 individuals. Encircled by a deep net, it was about two-thirds the size of a football field, anchored to the ocean bottom with more than 100 tons of chain. Rose says this frustration and boredom might be why these normally active, fast-swimming, wide-ranging predators have hurt and killed people when in captivity. The spokesman also said SeaWorld has not considered retiring its orcas or working to place them in sea pen sanctuaries, as animal welfare groups and orca experts have suggested, and pointed Newsweek to a quote from CEO Manby from the June 2015 stockholders' meeting: First, and most importantly, our killer whales are healthy, well cared for and thriving in our care. Sea pens have been used for years to hold cetaceans in captivity. We believe at least part of the reason for the decline is SeaWorld’s continued refusal to retire their orcas and dolphins to sea pens. This will be the first permanent sanctuary for dolphins and killer whales. Nollens referred to the sanctuaries as "sea cages," and otherwise echoed Manby's remarks. After it was announced that the park was ending its orca breeding program, people asked whether the existing killer whales could be rehomed in a sea sanctuary. (Candice K. Emmons under U.S. permit #781-1824 and 16163) In the race to save Puge While many orcas would not survive if they were suddenly released into the wild, the authors recommend the use of sea pens, which present a viable compromise by allowing the orcas greater freedom, providing them with the opportunity to learn how to catch fish, having trainers on hand to assess their health, and offering visitors a view of whales living in more natural surroundings. By Candace Calloway Whiting on November 20, 2011 at 4:23 PM. ", John Hargrove worked as a killer whale trainer for 14 years, the majority of these at the SeaWorld parks in San Diego and San Antonio. He was kept in an ocean enclosure and eventually died from exposure to pathogens. To continue reading login or create an account. Decades down the line, when the captive orcas are gone, the sea pens could transition into serving as rehabilitation facilities, Rose says, for injured whales that are rescued out in the wild. But experts and activists say the orcas, or killer whales, held in captivity at SeaWorld's three parks—in San Diego, San Antonio and Orlando, Florida—are living in circumstances vastly different from their natural environment and have developed abnormal rather than natural behaviors. The once-captive orcas remain very much dependent on human care. Keiko, the whale famous for being the inspiration for the film “Free Willy”, was an example of how sea pens can mean certain death. Some might be able to be released into open oceans, with a care and feeding station available should they wish to return to it. If you think about it, the orcas from SeaWorld have spent their lives within the protective, sterile walls of their enclosures. In some populations, children stay with their mothers for life. Rose and Marino will also host a public workshop at a conference of the Society for Marine Mammalogy in December that "will explore the potential for the development of sea pen, retirement sanctuaries or refuges for captive cetaceans in North America.". By Lindsay Edgar. Sounds ideal, right? It's gonna be focused more on the natural setting, the natural environment and also the natural behaviors of the whale. The group, including Rose, met for the first time this summer and will gather again in December. The sea pens would be a “less boring” environment than the animals’ current tanks, Rose said. Don Bartletti/Los Angeles Times/TNS The killer whales at SeaWorld SanDiego in California will probably never live in the wild. Whales born and raised in captivity, or even those born in the wild but who have lived for many years in captivity, can't simply be released, Rose and Goodman both emphasize, in part because they've never had to procure their own food or develop other learned behaviors that help them survive. "Their entire lives are these blue-walled tanks," and they "float emotionless for hours staring at a concrete wall because there's nothing for them to do." About a year and a half later, the foundation opened up Keiko's sea cage and gave him access to the entire cove, which had been cordoned off with a 300-meter-long net. The salmon would be grown to provide more forage for the starving southern residents in a key feeding area for them. There are no sea pens that can hold all 11 orcas. "What you see in a concrete tank is not a normal killer whale," says Naomi Rose, a marine mammal scientist for the Animal Welfare Institute who earned her doctorate with a dissertation on the social dynamics of killer whales. Each pen could cost up to $500,000 a year to care for, Rose said. Though arguably “unnatural”, that is the environment their immune systems have adjusted to. Eleven killer whales (also known as orcas) and 87 belugas languish in several rectangular sea pens in Srednyaya Bay in Russia’s Far East. Our oceans today are not entirely clean, and the netting won’t keep out any trash that happens to float by. Ultimately, though, Rose and her colleagues would much rather work with SeaWorld than against it. "Experts agree that [the orcas] would thrive in these conditions," he adds. If you think about it, the orcas from SeaWorld have spent their lives within the protective, sterile walls of their enclosures. Uncontrollable exposure to pollution, ocean debris and life-threatening pathogens in ocean waters are just a few of the factors that make sea pens an unhealthy living environment for any of our animals. Meanwhile, breeding in captivity would cease. And it'll have a strong conservation message.". Her proposal involved building a sea sanctuary with medical care and other stations around an existing island and allowing public access for visitors to view and learn about the orcas in a much more natural setting. "I want them to do this voluntarily and as partners. The notorious sea pens that housed 10 orcas and 87 beluga whales who had been captured for sale to marine parks in China are now closed. Are sea pens or SeaWorld tanks better for captive killer whales? There is nothing short of retiring them that would end their physical and psychological suffering. SeaWorld's first park opened in San Diego, California, in March 1964 with only a handful of employees, a few dolphins, sea lions, and two aquariums. Sea pens have a cosmopolitan distribution, being found in tropical and temperate waters worldwide, as well as from the intertidal to depths of more than 6100m. Though arguably “unnatural”, that is the environment their immune systems have adjusted to. While they might seem like a reasonable choice for introducing animals to the world outside their enclosures, sea pens are not all they’re cracked up to be. Yahoo Finance shows SeaWorld stock plunging another 68 cents per share (4.48%) and is issuing a Strong Sell recommendation for SeaWorld. The sea pen sanctuaries are a concept similar to the land sanctuaries that are home to elephants and chimps, Rose says. There are considerable downsides to sea pens. A team of scientists have started building an orca sanctuary, where SeaWorld’s killer whales could retire. See why nearly a quarter of a million subscribers begin their day with the Starting 5. Her caretakers were concerned that she wasn’t ready, but she was spotted five days later about 60 miles away, swimming with a group of dolphins that were identified as her original pod. SeaWorld's Monday announcement about a change to its orca performances has not impressed the animal welfare community and animal rights groups. Animal rights groups, such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, have called for SeaWorld to release its 29 orcas to sea pens. In the wild, orcas are very intelligent, social animals, she says, but putting them in a concrete tank that's tiny relative to the size of their bodies is like keeping a dog in a kennel for its entire life without ever taking it for a walk or run. I don't want them to go out of business. Rose, Goodman and Hargrove all point to a mockup presented recently by Ingrid Visser, a researcher specializing in orcas in New Zealand waters and the founder and principal scientist for the Orca Research Trust. The most often cited example of a captive orca released to a sea pen is Keiko, the whale featured in the 1993 Warner Bros. movie "Free Willy." However, every plan has its flaws. Endangered southern resident killer whales sport "DTags," sensors that help scientists understand how orcas hunt. If killer whales held by SeaWorld and other marine parks were released, where would they go? In this case, however, a sea pen sanctuary would be a large space in the ocean, most likely in a bay or a cove, that is enclosed by nets. All Rights Reserved. Millions of people experience our whales annually and are inspired by them every year when they visit our SeaWorld parks. Featured Image Credit: Minette Layne via Wikipedia. Unfortunately, the conversation too often leaves out the smallest details that are the largest problems. Many of the critics urge SeaWorld to release its beluga whales, orcas and other dolphins into “sea pens,” or large netted enclosures close to the shore where the animals could swim in natural waters while receiving food and veterinary care from humans. She hung around for a little while but then decided to make a break for the open ocean. Some of those who advocate loudest for sea pens have only one example on their resume: Keiko. According to Ingrid Visser, an orca expert who has been a leading voice in the Free Morgan movement, the ideal set-up would involve a sea pen in a harbor or bay protected from harsh weather, as well as a floating sea pen that could be used in the open ocean to create a different environment. I want them to change their business model. In another bit of pro-captivity spin, SeaWorld mentions the case of Keiko, an orca who was captured as a calf in 1979 and returned to the ocean in the late 1990s after being freed from a Mexican amusement park. Visser cofounded the Free Morgan Foundation and helped devise a plan to send the killer whale to a sea pen in Norway, with the intention of reuniting the orca with her family. In the wild, killer whales live in very tight-knit social groups, but those in captivity can't necessarily join such a group upon release. It was just so extreme and so off-the-charts irrational." "We are listening to our guests. “We have at least five different sites in mind, and we’ve looked at three of those in detail,” she tells me. "Animal rights activists, welfare organizations—anyone interested in this issue from the animal's perspective—have been asking [SeaWorld] to consider sea pen sanctuaries," Rose adds. Trainers have orcas perform for the crowd during a show at the animal theme park SeaWorld in San Diego on March 19, 2014. The title of my book on this subject, “Killing Keiko,” is blunt and it is true. Lori Marino, founder and executive director of the Kimmela Center for Animal Advocacy, has already assembled an expert panel to discuss in detail what such sanctuaries might look like and require, what criteria should be used to choose possible locations (such as water flow, depth and shielding from storms) and more. "He basically said it would be a death sentence. These enclosures are built on the fringes of marine habitats and are designed to give the animal inside a gradual adjustment to a natural setting. The whales are "suffering in captivity. There are considerable downsides to sea pens. Many claim them to be the magic solution to end captivity for cetaceans currently living in human care. The notorious sea pens that housed 10 orcas and 87 beluga whales who had been captured for sale to marine parks in China are now closed.Read more. We eat hatchery fish. Print; Morgan's life hangs in … SeaWorld Says It Has to Keep Orcas in Captivity to Save Them The company insists its killer whales help us better understand wild orcas. He resigned in August 2012 and just days later shot an interview for Blackfish, the 2013 documentary that focuses on Tilikum, a killer whale involved in the death of trainer Dawn Brancheau and two others. Orca Whale Morgan’s Proposed Sea Pen is Embraced by Community and is Close to Wild Orcas. We're evolving as a company. Sea pens are colonial marine cnidarians belonging to the order Pennatulacea.There are 14 families within the order; 35 extant genera, and it is estimated that of 450 described species, around 200 are valid. In what’s billed as “a simple idea to save orcas,” the Lummi Nation wants to rear and release Chinook from one or more sea pens in the San Juan Islands. A SeaWorld spokesman tells Newsweek via email that the orcas in San Diego will remain in the same tanks they are currently kept in for the "new orca experience" coming in 2017, and that the company plans to continue breeding the whales in captivity. Workers fashioned a sea pen out of foam-filled plastic pipe. Decades down the line, when the captive orcas are gone, the sea pens could transition into serving as rehabilitation facilities, Rose says, for injured whales that are rescued out in the wild. A female orca breaches in the Pacific Northwest. Image Credit: Doug Perrine/NPL. The sea sanctuaries are a way for them to return to "some semblance of natural life" while still receiving the human care they need as they live out the rest of their life. Sea pens would work. The whales would get healthier, and would act more normal and the public would be better informed about orcas every day. Featured Image Credit: Minette Layne via Wikipedia The captive orcas are at the center of an animal welfare debate. Would they be released into the wild? "His testimony was mind-blowing to me," Rose says. Rose noted that the U.S. Navy's Marine Mammal Program keeps its trained dolphins in sea pens just down the coast from SeaWorld San Diego. Our facilities are among the largest and most sophisticated in the world.... More than 80 percent of our whales were born in our care, and sea pens would be a poor choice for them. He’s no longer a good candidate for release back into the wild, but he should be retired to an ocean sea pen near his family pod, to live out his life and stop having to perform tricks. She says SeaWorld has "adamantly refused" to discuss the matter with her or her colleagues at other organizations. You might have heard about oceanic sea pens as the superior alternative to housing marine mammals within marine parks. The group is calling for the company to release all of SeaWorld's orcas to sea pens or coastal sanctuaries. "These animals are so incredibly bored," Hargrove tells Newsweek. During a night performance in 2014, trainers direct killer whales at Shamu Stadium in SeaWorld San Diego in California. The only reason to breed more orcas is to make sure more captive orcas are available to do meaningless tricks for the tourists to line the pockets of SeaWorld. CEO Joel Manby said during an investor call that the company's San Diego park would "phase out theatrical killer whale show in 2016"—the show known as "One Ocean" —and replace it with a "new orca experience" in 2017. The cost of building such pens could reach $5 million each. Another SeaWorld spokesman quoted from the testimony of Hendrik Nollens, a senior veterinarian at SeaWorld San Diego, before the California Coastal Commission in October. There are considerable downsides to sea pens. Since the announcement, animal welfare groups have drawn up several proposals that the captive whales be released with the help of sea pens. Since his resignation, Hargrove has also written Beneath the Surface: Killer Whales, SeaWorld, and the Truth Beyond Blackfish. Outside of the sea pens where the orcas and belugas are captive at Srednyaya Bay, Jean-Michel Cousteau talks about our mission and the opportunity we now have to rehabilitate and release them. Video by Harry Rabin. If rapidly transferred to coastal waters, they are exposed to poor water quality and significant pollutants. "In 2017, we will launch an all-new orca experience. In this case, his history of care in captivity was too significant to overcome the stressful conditions in the wild. (BLM) “The orcas eat hatchery fish. ", You have 4 free articles remaining this month, Sign-up to our daily newsletter for more articles like this + access to 5 extra articles. T hese excuses have been refuted by experts, including marine biologist and orca expert Dr Naomi Rose. The film stirred controversy for its unflattering portrayal of SeaWorld, which called it "shamefully dishonest, deliberately misleading and scientifically inaccurate.". In building sea pens and introducing ALL of your orcas into them you would increase renevue by allowing people to observe the whales in the ocean AND by winning back the patrons you lost from the "Blackfish effect". Demand sea pens for orcas owned by SeaWorld! When SeaWorld made the jaw-dropping announcement that they would phase out their orca shows, many people wondered what would happen to the large whales that called the park their home. We're always changing," Manby said. They've called for SeaWorld to stop breeding its orcas and retire those it currently holds in captivity. Animal Rights Groups 'Skeptical' of SeaWorld's Plan to End Killer Whale Shows, Report: SeaWorld to End Killer Whale Shows in San Diego. Scientists say that claim may not hold water. Although animal rights critics make false allegations, there is no science to support their claims. © 2020 Awesome Ocean.