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The Issue of Holding Orcas in Captivity in The Documentary Blackfish

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In 2013, Gabriela Cowperthwaile released her documentary Blackfish to the world, turning heads and fins of everyone who watched it. Her documentary dives deep into the disturbing lives the orcas go through at Sea World. She follows the life of a famous whale, Tilikum, who was involved in the deaths of 3 trainers. Sea world keeps up a charade that the orca lives longer in captivity than in the wild which is a lie. The orca also lives a very sad life, swimming around in the same little pool, doing the same shows day after day, sometimes having food withheld from them, it’s no wonder some of them went insane. Because of this documentary, Sea World lost a lot of money as well as their attendance.

Orcas live up to two to three times less in captivity then they do in the wild. Orcas in their natural habitat can live to be about 70-80 if they’re male and anywhere from 80-100 if they are female. At Sea World or anywhere else in captivity their lifespan is only about 30-50 years. This is heart breaking because Sea World staff tells children and families that come to visit their park that the orca are better taken care of there because there are veterinarians there to take care of them. As early as 1961 Orca began being captured to be used in shows. Out of the 166 captured only 37 are still alive. Meaning 129 of these precious orcas have died in captivity. 1965 was a very big year for Sea World, they had their first ever orca show. Shamu was the name of the star killer whale. When shamu was captured she had to witness her mother being hit with a spear and dying. Ted Griffin, a professional orca catcher, or marine cowboy was responsible for getting orcas from the wild and shipped to captivity. One of his workers worked for Sea World later on and was in charge of getting the whales into sea world. At one point during his nasty career he told his employees to cut open the stomachs of 4 orcas and sink them to the bottom of the sea. This is just plain cruel and the fact that this was not always public news makes me sick. The male orcas residing at Sea World have fallen dorsal fins when they are adults. Sea world tells customers this is a normal condition and happens to majority of orcas. If you were to see an Orca in the wild you would see their dorsal fin is as straight as straight can be.

The orca spend majority of their day swimming in circles in their small, shad less pools. Day or night their pools aren’t covered very well so they have no protection from the sun, or bad rainstorms. Back in their natural habitat these whales spend at least 95 percent of their time underwater, where there is plenty of shade and next to no sun. The tank they are forced into at sea world is only about 40 feet deep, which is nothing compared to the big blue sea. Because of having almost no shade the orcas get nasty sun burns. Zink oxide is usually put on the orca before shows so the audience won’t see the burns, but it really doesn’t help the pre existing burns. If Sea World really wanted to do something about the living conditions of the orcas they have the means to. But they refuse to help these animals who have no way of speaking up for themselves. They continue to keep them in small pools not sheltered from the sun. There have been countless accidents that could have been avoided if they put the orca into a habitat that was beneficial to them.

Blackfish uncovered secrets that shocked the whole nation about the terrible lives the orcas live through at Sea World. This wonderful documentary cost the company about 15.9 million dollars and had their attendance down by 5%. Sea World “decided” they needed to make a change so they ended their orca breeding program. Meaning no more orca will be born into captivity. By the end of this year Sea World will have terminated all orca shows which is a good step to keeping orca’s safe. California passed the Orca Welfare and Safety Act in 2016. Because of this bill no one can hold orcas in captivity what so ever. The documentary not only got sea world to change its ways, it got the word out to others that its time to stand up and speak for the orcas.

This documentary not only warns people of the dangers of keeping orcas in captivity but also painted a picture of the lies Sea World tells its customers about their length of life and living environments. This movie persuaded an ample amount of people into boycotting Sea World and got bills passed to keep orcas out of captivity. It turned so many people’s views around and brought light into the dangers of holding wild animals in captivity. 

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The Issue Of Holding Orcas In Captivity In The Documentary Blackfish. (2021, August 06). GradesFixer. Retrieved January 22, 2022, from
“The Issue Of Holding Orcas In Captivity In The Documentary Blackfish.” GradesFixer, 06 Aug. 2021,
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