ENTERTAINMENT: “Blackfish” Crashes Future Of SeaWorld In 83 Minutes

(Photo courtesy fhff.org)

(Photo courtesy fhff.org)

By Mindy Le – Staff Reporter

“Blackfish” is an American documentary about the controversy surrounding captive Orca whales, mainly focusing on SeaWorld’s Orca “Tilikum.” Director Gabriela Cowperthwaite provides interviews with former SeaWorld trainers and countless news stories. “Blackfish” was created to essentiality “expose” SeaWorld. The film informs viewers on the treatment of aquatic mammals and the devastating impact captivity can have.

The film opens with a series of 911 calls reporting attacks at SeaWorld. In 1983, near Iceland a young male orca later named Tilikum was taken from his mother and sent to a small Canadian resort. Tilikum was friendly and eager to learn but the trainer at the time used methods that involved punishment.

Six years into his stay at the resort Tilikum had attacked and killed his trainer. Eleven months later, SeaWorld bought Tilikum and he was transferred to their park in Florida. While at SeaWorld, Tilikum caused multiple injuries and two more deaths, including expert trainer Dawn Brancheau. Tilikum now spends his days in a small tank in isolation.

There is a lot of suspicion surrounding the treatment of animals at Seaworld. Orcas at the park have collapsed dorsal fins due to poor diet, but employees claim that it is normal for even wild orca. Yet, studies show less than 0.1% of wild orcas suffer from collapsed fins..

When Tilikum first arrived at SeaWorld parks it was reported that management failed to inform trainers of his violent behavior. After every attack, SeaWorld management would claim trainer error. But the former trainers would watch the tapes and see that in fact there was no error made.

Since the 2013 premiere, “Blackfish” has been picked up by Magnolia Pictures and CNN. This film impacted and opened America’s eyes. The controversy surrounding  “Blackfish” and SeaWorld caused Southwest Airlines to end their 26-year partnership with the park. According to SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. reports, there was an 84% drop in net income. SeaWorld’s income fell below $6 million compared to the $37 million earned the year previously.

People believe that the attacks are due to the physiological harm of captivity. These mammals are forced to swim in small tanks, punished using food deprivation, and isolated from others.  In the wild, Orcas live with their family and are used to swimming miles a day. There are no recorded deaths caused by Orcas in the wild, while, in captivity there are already three from one killer whale alone.

Orcas are highly intelligent and emotional animals. From the minute they are born they do not leave their mother’s side. They have family values similar to that of humans. In 2010, an MRI was conducted on an Orca, it revealed that they have a part of the brain that humans do not. It is possible this means that Orcas have emotions that are more complex and can possibly outrank humans.

Overall, “Blackfish” is a powerful documentary that supports its claims with compelling evidence. Even people who normally do not enjoy documentaries will be touched. This award-winning film is heartbreaking, sympathetic, dark, and  thought-provoking. Audiences will no doubt have a newfound appreciation for these magnificent animals and will be left with a different outlook on life.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

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