Statement in Support of Ending "Theatrical" Orca Shows at Sea World, Call for Sea Sanctuaries

Posted 4 years ago

Statement in Support of Ending "Theatrical" Orca Shows at Sea World, Call for Sea Sanctuaries

Lori Saldaña for Mayor of San Diego 3130 Moore St.
San Diego, CA 92110
(619) RUN-LORI (786-5674)

March 17, 2016
I welcome SeaWorld Entertainment’s announcement that they will no longer breed orcas in captivity, and over time, will phase out “theatrical” shows with these marine mammals. Likewise, congratulations on developing a stronger partnership with the Humane Society of the United States, to raise awareness of threats to orcas and other ocean species around the world.

In this era of ocean plastic, dwindling habitat and threatened and disappearing marine species, SeaWorld Entertainment could help create a new model of enjoying and understanding marine animals - and the threats they face- in the natural world. To that end - as the company transitions into a more educational format, I propose that SeaWorld partner with the city of San Diego and develop eco-tourism and educational displays for our coastal parks, to reinforce this conservation message, while also reconsidering their opposition to the coastal sanctuary proposals (as I discuss more fully below).

In San Diego, people observe many different marine mammals on or near the shore. Imagine if SeaWorld partnered with San Diego's Parks and Recreation Department, and sponsored kiosks with interpretive displays to help educate people about these animals. These educational exhibits would be a welcome addition to our coastal parks and ocean viewing locations, and also near canyons where water birds routinely fly inland each evening. Most parks currently lack an environmental educational component- let’s invite SeaWorld to help provide one.

Well-designed kiosks with interpretive materials about native species could help locals and visitors alike gain a better understanding of the animals they see around us every day. They would be a way to stimulate curiosity, and engage people of all ages in educational experiences.

SeaWorld could earn much respect from the public at large by supporting these opportunities- and could also raise awareness of their parks, using creative (and subtle) marketing methods. For example, they could post a barcode on the kiosks that could be scanned by smart phones, to provide a link to their website and a discount for tickets to their park.

(For those who worry about corporate logos or sales items appearing at public parks and beaches: we already have them at many of these places, e.g., on soda vending machines.)

As a humane alternative to captivity for the orcas that have lived and performed in tanks for decades, I encourage SeaWorld to reconsider their opposition to sanctuaries. They need to take the next step: partner with marine mammal researchers and advocates of orca sanctuaries, and work with them to develop a model for safe, humane orca release.

For years, organizations and researchers have been exploring places where orcas can be housed in protected inlets or coves, and live out their lives in an environment that gives them room to swim, hunt and explore their surroundings.

SeaWorld would gain international respect by helping to fund research and plans for marine mammal sanctuaries. They would be similar in concept to those that now exist for other large animals previously held in captivity for research and entertainment purposes: apes and monkeys, elephants, lions and other big cats.

Yes, there are technological and environmental challenges to coastal vs. land based sanctuaries- but it’s the humane thing to do, and an important concept in the age of disappearing habitats for many marine animals.

So thank you SeaWorld, for making the humane choice.

Please consider partnering with the city, to create public/private “eco-education” interpretive centers in our coastal areas, to encourage San Diegans to better understand and appreciate the natural world around us.

And consider partnering with sanctuary researchers, to explore humane “retirement plans” for your aging orcas. Many have performed for your park visitors for decades.

It’s time to let them live out their long lives in an ocean most of them have never seen, after a life born into captivity.

SEE Essay by Lori Saldana in the San Diego Free Press, April 9, 2014: “The Night I Decided to Stop Going to Sea World”

San Diego Free Press


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