SeaWorld PR attempts to save-face but rescue and conservation efforts fall short
SeaWorld is seeking to clean up its image now that things are not going their way in the case against the OSHA which charges they were negligent in the “Willful” death of veteran trainer Dawn Brancheau.
On Friday, the multi-billion dollar entertainment facility issued a press release, hoping to capitalize on the just released film “Dolphin Tale”, which tells the story of a bottle-nose dolphin named Winter who was rehabilitated at athe Clearwater Marine Aquarium. They were also undoubtedly eager to offset the negative publicity surrounding the court hearing against the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) which was scheduled to conclude on that day. However, the hearing will reconvene in November.
From the SeaWorld press-release:
“The SeaWorld Rescue Team – which also helped with the initial rescue transport of Winter… uses their expertise and creativity every day to devise new ways to rescue, treat and return to nature these extraordinary animals.”
While this may be true of some marine animals (turtles, sea lions, seals, etc) – killer whales and dolphins do not fall into their realm of rescue, unless of course there is a potential for public display and profit. This was evident in SeaWorld’s lax response to a mass stranding of pilot whales in the Florida Keys in early May, 2011. Volunteers and non-profit organizations were on the scene immediately and heroically helped the survivors with every available resource around-the-clock. SeaWorld eventually showed up, and now two of the pilot whales are being cared for at SeaWorld. Their future is uncertain but they will likely be used for breeding purposes to continue the captive population.
The press release continued with this excerpt:
“This commitment extends to animals around the world: The company has contributed more than $50 million to conservation, wildlife rescue and environmental stewardship initiatives and has supported efforts on every continent, as well as operating its own well-respected wildlife rescue program.”
What they don’t state is that SeaWorld operates its rescue program through a non-profit organization called the Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute. This organization relies on public and federal funding which competes with truly non-profit organizations that have orca and dolphin rescues, research and education at the core of their missions. Despite the claim of contributing $50 million to conservation and rescue (over their lifetime) these grants take away money from earnest non-profits such as the Orca Network and many others which run circles around SeaWorld when it comes to true research and education. SeaWorld reportedly had $1.4 Billion in revenue in 2010 yet receives these grants to perform their rescue programs.
In the past 10 years alone, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), the U.S. government oversight agency which provides oversight and guidance on the conservation of marine mammals and endangered species has awarded SeaWorld (and Hubbs-SeaWorld) almost $2 Million dollars in grants. The for-profit SeaWorld continues to take in billions off the backs of killer whales and dolphins in captivity and contributes little to their protection in the wild.
At the same time, SeaWorld is trying to acquire Morgan, a female killer whale rescued in coastal Dutch waters, despite a comprehensive and achievable plan to reintroduce her to the wild. However, the addition of her into the gene pool in the SeaWorld collection, and potential profits, apparently outweigh their claims of “rescue, treat, and release”.
We appreciate all that SeaWorld has done in the past to contribute to the research, education and conservation efforts for the highly complex, intelligent and social mammals such as dolphins and killer whales… but the time has come to evolve from keeping these amazing creatures in captivity for the exploitative entertainment industry.
For more information, please visit this informative article by Cetacean Inspiration: “Seaworld and Conservation”.