The things that 'Blackfish' didn't tell you...

Anyone with a Netflix account is likely to have seen the shocking documentary about captive whales ‘Blackfish’ by Gabriela Cowperthwaite, which was released in 2013. The documentary details the life of multiple captive whales in SeaWorld parks but focuses mainly on Tilikum,the largest whale held in captivity at 12,000 pounds, who has killed 3 people during his 30 years of living in captivity.

As someone who feels strongly about animal rights, the details of the documentary made me very upset and angry, the feelings that most people have after watching it. However after huge amounts of reading and scouring to find out more about the lives of captive whales, I have to say that Blackfish is not the end of this problem. Yes, SeaWorld's treatment of the whales is despicable and yes, I will never go to one of their parks; but personally, if I was going to be a captive whale, I’d probably actually WANT to be in SeaWorld.

Let me tell you about the other culprits and you'll see why…

Miami Seaquarium

Miami Seaquarium's only whale in captivity, Lolita, was captured in 1970 meaning she has lived in the same place for 44 years, performing every day. Lolita is the second oldest captive whale - after Corky, a captive whale in SeaWorld’s San Diego park, who was captured in 1969. Lolita has not had any contact with another whale since the death of “Hugo” in 1980 after he repeatedly bashed his own head into the side of the pool. Lolita has been alone since then, over 30 years ago. She has lived in the same park for her whole captive life, which is the smallest tank holding captive orcas in the United States- just one and a half times her own size. However, there is hope for Lolita (pictured below), as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have placed her on a endangered species list, meaning that freedom may be closer for this lucky lady than we all think. In June 3rd 2015, there was a huge breakthrough after an order from Occupational Safety and Health Administration meant that trainers were no longer allowed to work in the tank with Lolita. 

Marineland, Antibes

Located in the South of France, this park currently holds 5 orcas and has had 10 orca deaths at the park. Most recently, Freya, a 33 year old orca who has lived for around 31-32 years in captivity. She was the oldest orca held in captivity at Marineland and only one of her calves, Valentin, survived after 4 stillbirths. Despite this, to me this park stands out for another reason- the pools in this park do not have any sort of cooling system, meaning that the whales at Marineland often suffer from sunburn as the pools are not deep or cold enough to get away from the extreme heat in the the South of France.

Marineland, Ontario

The Canadian Province of Ontario has recently set out a new law which banishes the breeding and purchase of orcas, which was a huge step forward in orca care. However, this sadly does not apply to the only orca left in captivity in Ontario, 39 year old Kiska.

Russian Orca Captures 

Most people are under the belief that you cannot take killer whales from the wild anymore. While this is true for American and Canadian parks, captures are still taking place in Russia. Most recently, 3 more orcas have been captured this summer.

So, yes, in the grand scheme of things SeaWorld are the big dogs, holding 24 of captive orcas in the world, and targeting them will break their chain of reproduction due to their use of artificial insemination. But there are other suffering orcas in the world. We must not forget them in the hype surrounding SeaWorld, and try and tackle the wider problem. Education and pressure on the governments around the world is key to giving these magnificent animals a better quality of life.

If you feel strongly about whales in captivity, you can sign a petition over at change.org: https://www.change.org/p/seaworld-end-captive-orca-breeding-program.