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Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s Blackfish: Treatment of the Sea World and Marine Wildlife

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Out of the darkness and into the light

The 2013 documentary Blackfish Directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite and produced by Manny Oteyza targets the treatment and public relations of Sea World and other marine wildlife parks in the same business. The documentary starts with the capture of the first young orca whales and the way that they were treated. After being captured the young whales were split apart and sent to different marine aquariums to be tamed and trained for become the star attractions of the aquariums. The young whales were kept in a small tank for the day to train and to interact with the trainers however during the night the whales were placed in a small steel pen with no light. This damaged the whales psychologically and they began acting out by harming themselves, fellow whales, and at times threatening the trainers. The documentary moves forward through the history of these marine parks and addresses key events that have taken place and purposely covered up by the parks. It documents the injuries and deaths of the trainers as well as people from the public. It also documents the conditions that the whales live in for their entire lives.

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The documentary deals a devastating blow to the marine park business. Many of the events that have taken place in these parks have been covered up or twisted so that it does not affect the attendance of the tourists or the profitability of the parks. For example Sea World attendance for a previous year was just short of 3,500,000 compared to this year at the same time was just over 3,000,000. This has caused the value of their stock to drop to around $30 and this is causing companies and investors to pull their investments. This also has an effect on the tourism of the neighboring communities. The drop in attendance has also cause the annual profits to decrease significantly. The orca whales are also affected by the turn of events. Certain whales are no longer allowed to perform what they were trained to perform and now sit idle in their solitary tanks waiting for interaction and stimulation. Orca whales are very social creatures, designed to be a part of a large pod consisting of many family members. But the captive whales are forced to remain separate when not performing and this causes them to act out violently towards the trainers and other orcas when interaction does occur. This endangers the life of both man and beast.

The Blackfish documentary explains that marine parks such as Sea World are currently not being good stewards of the animals that they have been given charge over. Being contained in such a small environment is not respecting these orca whales and their intended purpose. And because being help in captivity is detrimental to the mental stability and health of the whale no more whales should be captured for the purpose of performing a show or being held in a cement tank. Therefore, the whales that are already in captivity should be permanently retired and held in an ocean pen located in a large harbor. This would allow the orcas to swim and feed almost naturally while still technically in captivity due to the orca being tamed and their natural instincts suppressed. This in turn would result in happier healthier whales that the general public could go and view in a somewhat natural habitat. It would be highly educational and bring greater enjoyment to the onlookers. The documentary is controversial because it brings the dark secrets of marine parks like Sea World out into the light as we seek the truth.

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