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SeaWorld will likely press Judge to have Closed Hearings

February 11, 2011

It is anticipated that an Orlando Judge will be asked to sign a “Protective Order” for an upcoming SeaWorld vs. OSHA hearing, effectively sealing off the details of this high profile case forever.  The proceedings before Judge Ken S. Welsch, originally scheduled to begin Monday, February 14, 2011 have been rescheduled to April 25, 2011, in Orlando, FL. SeaWorld is contesting OSHA citations issued in August, including a finding for the “Willful” act of knowingly placing its employees at risk, following an investigation into the tragic death of killer whale trainer Dawn Brancheau.

In the past, SeaWorld has been successful at maintaining a cloak of secrecy in cases regarding employee injuries, akin to the crippling of trainer John Sillick in 1987, and it’s expected they will try to follow the same path after the death of their veteran orca trainer nearly one year ago.

If an order is issued by the Judge, it could bar the public from participating in the hearing and seal all content, including expert witness testimony from both sides and the documentation and evidence describing the suboptimal conditions associated with orca (killer whale) captivity. If the attempt to seal is successful, expert witnesses who participate in this trial would not be allowed to discuss or write anything about it publicly. It will also prevent content from being used for future litigation or investigation… essentially closing the details from public view and scrutiny forever.

On August 23, 2010 the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued citations to SeaWorld for apparently placing profit above employee safety. OSHA fined SeaWorld Orlando $75,000 for safety violations including the maximum $70,000 penalty for the “Willful” act of knowingly placing its employees at risk, a charge that has major implications beyond the monetary value, which is not substantial for the multi-billion dollar marine park. The stunning announcement of the “Willful” charge triggered a flurry of claims and opened the floodgates for further legal action by Dawn’s family, terminated employees and witnesses. It has also sparked a growing number of former SeaWorld employees to speak out about the culture of working with orcas and the secrecy that shrouds the marine mammal entertainment industry.

SeaWorld’s appeal of the August OSHA ruling prompted the upcoming hearing:

 “SeaWorld disagrees with the unfounded allegations made by OSHA today and have already informed the agency that we will contest this citation,” the company said in a written statement. “OSHA’s allegations in this citation are unsupported by any evidence or precedent and reflect a fundamental lack of understanding of the safety requirements associated with marine mammal care.”

Yet, even with SeaWorld’s assertions of no wrong-doing, it is anticipated they will seek to keep all evidence out of public view while they “contest the unfounded allegations”.

 This is a call for action. Do you think these hearings should be open, or closed? Let us know what you think and be sure to check back with us to see who you can contact to keep the pressure on keeping these hearings open (see below).  We will keep you updated as the story unfolds.

What You Can Do:
You can visit the  United States Department of Labor on FaceBook and tell them what you think. From their site, you can also link to Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis’ FaceBook page. Secretary Solis is at the top of OSHA’s chain of command. Ask the Honorable Secretary and the Department of Labor to use whatever means necessary to ensure the public has access to the details of this case:
Call or Write:

Most Honorable Secretary of Labor
Hilda L. Solis
U.S. Department of Labor
200 Constitution Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20210
(202) 693-6000

Re: OSHA vs. SeaWorld Order

I respectfully request that you use whatever means within your power to allow the public to hear the details of the investigation into the tragic death of killer whale trainer Dawn Brancheau at SeaWorld of Florida on 24 February 2010.

It is anticipated that Judge Ken S. Welsch will be asked to sign a Protective Order for the hearing scheduled to begin 25 April 2011 in Orlando, FL effectively sealing all content and expert witness testimony, as well as descriptions of the suboptimal conditions associated with orca captivity. If successful, witnesses will be forever barred from discussing or writing anything about the case publicly, preventing any and all content from being used for future litigation or investigation, akin to the crippling of trainer John Sillick in 1987.

The family of the victim should be vindicated and the public has the right to know, as details of this case have a direct effect on the future of workplace safety at marine mammal parks.

Respectfully submitted,

[Your name]


You may also visit the following site at to sign a petition here:


You can read more about this story by visiting :

Hearing on SeaWorld Trainer’s Death: Keep it Open to the Public– by David Kirby~ Huffington Post

Will SeaWorld hearing be closed to the public?- CFNews 13 Orlando

40 Comments leave one →
  1. December 25, 2012 9:48 pm

    Can I simply just say what a comfort to uncover somebody that actually understands what they’re talking about over the internet. You actually understand how to bring a problem to light and make it important. More and more people ought to check this out and understand this side of the story. I was surprised that you aren’t more popular given that you surely have the gift.

  2. Teruka permalink
    April 20, 2012 8:54 pm

    Close hearings! What is SeaWord hidding? Who will look after the orcas?

  3. December 2, 2011 1:32 pm

    you would be resting comfortably “on the other side” as some call it. The place where the grass IS greener, or

    • Teruka Jimenez permalink
      December 2, 2011 11:03 pm

      Justice will prevail for all orcas in captivity. Tilikum and LOLITA: be patient; your time has come and so it is!

  4. Teruka Jimenez permalink
    February 17, 2011 12:08 am

    I do not have fun at the expense of anybody’s suffering including orcas/marine animal shows or bull fights. Open hearings will allow the public to know what is happening behind the scenes.

  5. Kim permalink
    February 14, 2011 8:04 pm

    Why am I not surprised. I know from the beginning that there was something fishy about the hole thing. The way the director of the training department said that dawn would blame herself if she were here is just barbaric! Frankly, they should of not allowed dine with shamoo to proceed, seeing as some of the whales were acting up in the previous show. Please, please, don’t let this hering be closed! Those of us who are anti captivity, need to speak out for the animals, as well as the human vicktums as well!

  6. Vicki Sawyer permalink
    February 13, 2011 4:09 am

    Why, why should these proceedings be withheld from us, the public, for goodness sakes??? We have a right to know!!
    The fact that SeaWorld is trying to keep this from all of us ( we people, who have the right to know) only affirms their knowledge of guilt and responsibility.

    Why should this be closed from the public? What can we do to keep this case open to the people who can speak for the animals???

  7. Jen permalink
    February 12, 2011 8:40 pm

    i signed the petition, come on everyone sign too as there’s not many signatures so far.

    • Vicki Sawyer permalink
      February 13, 2011 11:03 pm

      I signed – I wish there was more that I could do!!!
      I didn’t know there was a petition till I saw your email.

  8. Jen permalink
    February 12, 2011 8:38 pm

    I signed the petition, there’s not many signatures though, only a couple of hundred, so come on people get signing.


  9. Cali permalink
    February 12, 2011 7:10 pm

    Not really surprising, SW is a business first and foremost, they always have and they always will be. However I wouldn’t be so quick to judge that what they are trying to hide is something so bad or scandalous….even though I’m sure many would actually hope that there was.

    • Jordan permalink
      February 16, 2011 5:44 pm

      Oh yeah they’re not hiding anything; — even though they tried to keep their Icelandic orca hunting trips from late 1970’s and early 1980’s as secretive as possible, going AWOL the moment word got out that someone got a picture of Jim Atrium, Dons Goldsberry and Brad Andrews on the Gudrun, SeaWorld Inc. has nothing to hide! ಠ_ಠ

  10. Mary Markus permalink
    February 12, 2011 4:47 pm

    Sea World should free all of it’s orcas, and close it’s doors.

  11. jtinmiami permalink
    February 12, 2011 1:33 pm

    I have worked heavy construction for longer than I care to think about and fall under the parameters of OSHA. I have been told numerous times to expect “routine and regular OSHA inspections”, and have been instructed on how to handle said inspections (story for another time). To date, I have never been on an active jobsite where an OSHA inspection was performed.
    I have no idea what the OSHA inspection log is for this particular industry.
    Unfortunately, in my experience, and it seems like the case with Ms. Brancheau, a thorough inspection/ investigation does not occur until after there is a fatality involved at said jobsite.
    To have the public shut out of hearings does not keep up with the language that I hear everyday, words like accountability and transparency.
    My point is this: While I applaud the efforts made to keep this procedure public, I believe that it is as of equal importance for OSHA to be informed that they should stay out in front of problems, rather than clean up the messes made by the industries that they are supposed to govern.

  12. Jordan permalink
    February 12, 2011 1:26 pm

    If SeaWorld keeps this hearing closed then it’s nothing more than a tell-tale sign that they have something to hide, much like the Orky II/John Sillick lawsuit.

    I think an open hearing would be SeaWorld’s most educational show of all – by letting others, from ex-trainers to current trainers, orca researchers and biologists to come forth and paint a more vivid picture, with their testimony, of what happened before, during and after the Tilikum incident, and how exactly it manages its parks.

  13. Mercedes De Windt permalink
    February 12, 2011 1:09 pm

    I respectfully request an open and transparent public hearing, most of us are truly concerned about the well being of these marine mammals. Nobody can claim them except our creator and we all need to share this planet the oceans and the same air that we breathe. These creatures were stolen from the oceans, their natural habitat and ripped away from their families. These creatures should be respected, helped, protected and defended by us all. Please keep us, the public, involved and let us know the outcome of the SeaWorld vs. OSHA hearing and not have the public be banned from hearing about the case.
    Here follows a quote from Mr. Thomas Berry 1914-2009
    “Rights come from existence. Rights is simply the giving to every being its due 3 rights.
    1 Right to be
    2 Right to habitat and
    3 Right to fulfill its role in the great community of existence.”

  14. February 12, 2011 11:21 am

    The real purpose to require closed doors is not to defend anyone, but so that everyone involved must testify without being allowed to talk about it later.
    SW then just have make sure that everyone who knows anything about it must testify.
    It does not matter anything what they say. What matters is that they say it in a closed case. So it can not later be used against SW.
    And just before the case ends the SW just admit that they are paying the $ 71,000 ($ 141,000), and everything will be hidden for the future, in a nice little coverup.
    As others have pointed out it can only be because they have something to hide. Maybe even something that would make the that place was closed down, if it came out in public what is realy happening.

  15. February 12, 2011 10:29 am

    The hearings must be open. Everyone must know what is going on at SeaWorld!
    The paying public has a right to know everything. Then they can decide whether they will continue to visit Seaworld

  16. February 12, 2011 9:12 am

    Open! Please let us know who to contact. Many folks are ready to weigh in on behalf of the Orcas!

  17. Lori permalink
    February 11, 2011 9:42 pm

    This needs to be OPEN to the public. The very fact that Seaworld wants it to be closed is telling in itself. Let us not forget the rights of Tilikum and the other killer whales and dolphins trapped inside Seaworlds gates. Having the expert testimony of former trainers permanently closed could be devastating to further helping the marine mammals at Seaworld. What happened to Dawn is tragic. To compound that tragedy is the FACT that there is still another victim in all of this. Tilikum.

  18. February 11, 2011 9:25 pm

    SeaWorld of course does not want this to be opened, of of course all of us feel that it should be. We the public, should have a right to know what is going on at Seaworld, and the dangers those working there face. Even those Pro-captive folks might want to see just how bad, it really is. But IMO, this is WAY beyond our wants and the public’s rights. I have to say, that Dawn’s family DOES have a right! How dare they say that testimony might spark a lawsuit! They deserve a lawsuit. Dawn knew what she was getting into when she worked with Tilly, but its SEAWORDS responsibility to make sure their staff is safe at all times. This is a slap in the face to Dawn, to her family, to all those who have been injured and/or killed before, AND the next in line to be hurt/killed (I truly hope they don’t think Tilikum is the only one that can and will attack). By them even ASKING this proves to me their guilt. If they were in the practice of putting the safety of both their Staff and the animals first, they would not be worried.
    Please pass on who I can contact! I will do anything I can to help stop this. Thanks so much for sharing!

  19. CarolineValentine permalink
    February 11, 2011 9:25 pm

    What can we do to stop this case from being closed? Please let us know, we have people ready to email and fax and write!

  20. February 11, 2011 9:11 pm

    Please can you give me the email address so that my group can address emails to help your cause? I would like to address emails to the Judge. ~ Thank you.

  21. krystyna reider permalink
    February 11, 2011 9:07 pm

    ok really sea world? i hope u all loose ur jobs and end up living in a box IN THE WOODS!

    • Vicki Sawyer permalink
      February 13, 2011 4:13 am

      Wouldn’t it be nice if Sea World people were forced to live in pens, with people they didn’t know, to breed with people they didn’t know, and to know that their lives depended on money hungry bastards like themselves?

  22. February 11, 2011 9:05 pm

    We as tax payers have the right to hear the court proceeding of this case. The Blackstone Group which purchased the park from Anheuser/Busch in Sept. 2009, is totally responsible for putting profit over safety of its personnel. This Federal Case should be transparent and we “joe Public” as Tax payers should be allowed to participate and have experts witness be heard also on behalf of the family of trainer they need to hear the truth on how their daughter, niece or sister was taken from them due to the greed of the Blackstone Group.

  23. February 11, 2011 8:57 pm

    What an outrage. These hearings would better serve the public and the whales if we could learn from them.

  24. anita permalink
    February 11, 2011 8:52 pm

    These hearings absolutely should be open….aren’t they always telling the truth at SeaWorld?
    So why do they want it closed? What are they hiding?

  25. Terry permalink
    February 11, 2011 8:45 pm

    Sea World and other Sea Parks and Oceanariums are feeling the heat from environmentalists and other animal protection and conservation groups and any negative publicity is just another nail in their coffin. With open heaings, all of Sea World’s dirty laundry will be exposed and the negative publicity will be monumental. When OSHA becomes involved, rest assured there will be deleterious consequences of TREMENDOUS magnitude. You DON’T mess with OSHA. Sea World and their owner (Anheuser Busch) CANNOT afford this kind of BAD publicity because, unfortunately, their ‘Bottom Line’ is MORE important than the welfare of its captive/imprisoned Killer Whales and Dolphins (and OTHER sea creatures – – –

  26. Steffi permalink
    February 11, 2011 8:29 pm

    This should be open to the public. By closing, it is keeping us from the truth and shows that they don’t want the public to know what “deals” they are making behind closed doors.


  1. SeaWorld’s Proposed Multi-Million-Dollar Safety Gimmicks Don’t Measure Up | The Orca Project
  2. SeaWorld Comes Back Strong | Gini's Nature News
  3. Killer Whale Tilikum Returns to SeaWorld Shows After 3rd Death « The Orca Project
  4. Dolphin & Whale News Digest | Gini's Nature News
  5. Captivity of Orca’s, SeaWorld requests closed hearing « Champions for Cetaceans
  6. SeaWorld’s Proposed Multi-Million-Dollar Safety Gimmicks Don’t Measure Up « The Orca Project
  7. Exclusive Interview #3: Former SeaWorld trainer Samantha Berg and the Perils of Orca Captivity (part 1) « The Orca Project
  8. SeaWorld will likely push Judge for Closed Hearing vs OSHA

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