Day 169 12/11/13: Sea Shepherd Takes Over Sea World!

Lets Save Sea World!

What I would do if I could take over the management of Sea World

Commentary by Captain Paul Watson

There is an axiom in business that a company must adapt or die.

Sea World is in this position now. Awareness is changing and just as human slavery was tossed onto the dust heap of history so will the idea of enslaving marine mammals for purposes of entertainment.

Sea World is under a great deal of public pressure thanks to the film Black Fish and an ever-growing global movement to shut it down. Sea World is losing money. Performers like Bare Naked Ladies, Willie Nelson and Heart have cancelled their performances and some shareholders are already divesting themselves of their shares in anticipation of a dramatic fall in the value of those shares.

The public is becoming increasing horrified by the bloody slaughter of dolphins in Taiji Japan and the violent drives to capture dolphins to perform at aquariums and the slaughter of the ones not deemed desirable to exhibit to the public.

Sea World has said nothing in opposition to the dolphin killing or whaling while maintaining the myth that they “love” whales and dolphins.

The public is seeing through the charade and this does not bode well for Sea World.

Could Sea World close down?

Possibly, although Sea World is gambling that they will weather the controversy. The media and the public are notoriously fickle and what is a passionate public cause today, is often forgotten tomorrow.

But there has been a persistent anti-captivity movement for decades and it grows stronger each year and the film Black Fish has greatly increased the strength of this movement. That persistence will continue and it will get stronger every year.

Like any industry, Sea World must adapt or die.

Thus I believe it is inevitable that Sea World will be faced with closing its doors, certainly within the next decade.

I think it is time for new management and I’m quite willing to take the job. I think I can turn this downward trend around and in so doing I think I can breathe new life into this increasingly heartless institution.

More and more people want Sea World shut down but there are many with seemingly legitimate concerns about what will happen if it is shut down.  Some of the criticisms of the opponents of Sea World include:

1. Where do children go to see marine mammals? And what a shame it would be to close down an educational facility like Sea World.
2. Sea World rescues animals and provides care facilities for animals injured in the wild.
3. If Sea World closes what will happen to the captive animals?

With regard to the first criticism the answer is simple. Children can be educated about whales through film and they can see whales in the wild on whale watch trips. The price of a ticket to Sea World is not much different than the price of a ticket on a whale-watching vessel. But some have said that not everyone lives close to the sea and thus they do not have the opportunity to see whales in nature. The answer to that is if you can go to Sea World Orlando or Sea World San Diego, you can also go on a whale-watching trip. Both these facilities are near the sea. On a whale watch trip children can see whales behaving like whales do in their natural habitat. There is nothing educational about seeing whales jump through hoops or carrying a trainer around on their back. Sea World is not and never has been an educational facility. Sea World does not talk about the threats to the whales like whaling, pollution, over-fishing etc. Basically it all comes down to “hey boys and girls, do you know that Orcas are mammals just like you.” And the average kid already knows that. Presently Sea World appeals to stupidity and when it comes to ecology and the oceans, young people are much better educated now than when Sea World first opened their ticket booths. We need a Sea World that appeals to people genuinely concerned about saving our oceans

With regard to the second criticism. Yes, Sea World does rescue and care for stranded animals and this is a source for many of their display animals. What would happen if Sea World were not to do this? There are more non-profit marine mammal rescue centers than there are Sea World facilities and these organizations would be much more likely to receive more public and government funding without Sea World doing their collecting and sampling. I was on the beach in La Jolla, California when Sea World “rescued” a sea lion. I was not impressed. The “rescuers” were clearly hurting the animal but seemingly did not care until I introduced myself and they saw I had a camera. Suddenly they became much more gentle.

The last concern is probably the most important. What will happen to the animals if Sea World closes?

Sea World could euthanize them if the government granted them permits to do so, but that would create a shit storm of a public outcry.

They could release the ones that can be released but a great many cannot be released and the responsibility to care for them would belong to Sea World. After all they have made hundreds of millions of dollars in profits from these animals.

Sea World would have to maintain the facilities and to provide food and care to the animals they are obligated under the law to care for.

But there is an alternative whereby Sea World could survive. It may not be the money-making circus it is today but it could survive and function as a real educational facility with human entertainment instead of animal entertainment and most importantly it would be relevant.

This would allow Sea World to care for the animals they have and to care for animals they rescue.

They could give presentations on the importance of our oceans and on finding solutions to the threats to the survival of the oceans.

They could maintain the theme park like other theme parks. Whereas Universal Studios has Waterworld, Sea World could have a Captain Nemo theme show. There are many possibilities but it all comes down to shows that provide real education in addition to real entertainment.

The most popular and beloved circus on the planet is Cirque du Soleil. Why? Because they don’t exploit animals.

Sea World needs to take a lesson from Cirque du Soleil.

They can still have water tanks. For example there could be a vertical tank going down 300 metres where human free divers could be seen displaying their skills. Another pool could provide mermaids doing synchronized swimming. There could be a tank simulating the oceanic gyres with demonstrations of what can be done to solve the problem. There could be facilities for teaching diving.

There would be tanks for rescued animals where people can see caregivers rehabilitating stranded, sick or injured animals. The tanks would also contain the retired Orcas that can’t be released and they would swim about and trainers would interact with them in games that benefit the animals and keep them from being bored. They simply would not be forced to do things contrary to their nature.

If given a choice between watching animals doing silly tricks or seeing hands on efforts to save our oceans, I believe young people especially will be interested in dealing with real problems.

The new Sea World could have life size robotic whales and dolphins. It could have a wave machine swimming pool for surfing like Typhoon Lagoon at Disney World. Surfing demonstrations could be performed by the world’s greatest surfers.

There could be a Maori whale riding ride for children with a large robotic whale.

There could be a tank featuring old style hard-hat diving and demonstrations of the evolution of diving.

There could be breeding facilities for protecting endangered fishes and corals.

There could be a kelp forest.

There are many possibilities to provide a highly entertaining and educational facility in place of the slave circus non-educational travesty that Sea World is presently running today.

Sea World should be able to evolve and to transform into something awesome and relevant.

Will such a thing happen? Probably not. The executives at Sea World lack the vision to see and implement positive alternative approaches.

But one thing is for certain. The days of public tolerance for animal abuse are coming to an end and I firmly believe Sea World’s days are numbered – unless they adapt.

And if they don’t and they begin to lose money as the share-holders abandon the sinking ship and they will be faced with the dilemma of what to do with the slaves.

If they can’t free them or euthanize them, they will be legally bound to care for them for the remainder of the natural lives of the animals. Any attempts to euthanize them will be opposed by the public.

Sea World can make a choice to survive as a positive educational and entertainment facility that does not exploit animals or it can go out of business completely as the public becomes more educated to the abuses and contradictions of this institution of slavery.

Paul Watson's photo.
Paul Watson's photo.
Paul Watson's photo.
Paul Watson's photo.

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