It's a childhood story that spans generations with movies like "Free Willy" and "Flipper", and a dream that most of us dreamt as kids - to swim with dolphins and whales.
The fascination with these sea mammals has been exploited since the first killer whale was put into captivity in 1961 ("Wanda", as she was named, died in less than two days of captivity). Since then, nearly 150 of these animals have been captured from the wild to be entrapped in small water tanks and made to perform for paying audiences. The orcas and dolphins entertainment is a billion dollar industry, with marine parks all over the world racking up big bucks to promote shows and close encounters with these animals for a hefty price.
Activism against marine life captivity started to grow in the 80s and 90s. The several attacks on humans (mostly their trainers) by orcas brought the issue to the fore but media coverage was usually short-lived, probably managed by PR bankrolled by the captivity industry's deep pockets.
Circa 150 orcas have been taken from the wild and put into captivity :(
In the 2000's people across the world started to become more aware of the suffering of captive marine life, helped by the internet and social media. The cause grew around the world and in 2013 the documentary Blackfish exposed the cruel reality of marine parks' money-making machine at the expense of (mainly) orcas and dolphins. The film was a success, broadcast by Netflix, heavily promoted by activists (led especially by PETA) and shared on social media by decent human beings all over the world.
The damage was made, and the issue reached proportions out of control even for the powerful Sea World. The marine park conglomerate was sued by regulators and paid a settlement of US$ 5 million to the SEC. Worse (for them!), the decline in attendance following the release of Blackfish caused the parks investors a loss of US$ 830 million in the value of the company.
Importing, exporting and breeding whales and dolphins is forbidden in Canada :)
But the best was yet to come! In 2015 Canadian legislators proposed a ban on importing and exporting cetaceans, and bans making them perform for entertainment, with fines of up to US$200,000 for breaches. It took four long years, but in June of this year 2019 the law passed!
As it was the case with the shark fin ban, Canada leads the way once again. Inevitably, this will encourage other countries to follow suit and hope is growing in the West. Unfortunately, the issue is not yet so well understood in the Eastern world and the marine park business is still booming in countries like Russia and China, where a captured orca whale is sold by a staggering US$7 million.
Hopefully, with continued effort by all of us and the hard work of activists all over the world, we will drive this wave of change across the rest of the world and bring awareness to the cruelty that these animals are put through in the relentless profit-seeking business of marine parks.
Ps: if you liked Blackfish, a new documentary was released in July to pick up where they left and expose the issue in the eastern world - Long Gone Wild.
Ps2: if you really love marine life, have a look at our sustainable products for ideas on how to use less plastic and reduce the impact on the environment :)