Alright, I have taken the time to watch the movie; in fact I have watched it 5 times and considered it carefully from all aspects. I am not writing this to dig into inaccuracies, unbalanced consideration or even to engage in the overall debate of captivity itself. I want to discuss the end goal. I have thought about this at length, and I suppose the best way to approach it is to say there are answers needed and I wonder if anyone has even considered this past the point of a good “physiological thriller”.
Let us say, for conversational sake, that “Blackfish” has a profound effect on SeaWorld as a company, as well as the millions of fans that enter the park each year. Those that have protested and debated on behalf of, or as a result of the movie “Blackfish”, now get what they have screamed for. SeaWorld puts their proverbial hands in the air and say “You Win” we will sign the Orca in our care over to you, you may do as you see fit. You win, all the Orca are now free, at least theoretically they are free. Now comes the real work, and where my questions begin, certainly someone has considered these in advance, someone at the initiation of the “cause” has had to have made plans before pushing for their end goal.
These are just a few comments from a single post on SeaWorld’s facebook page:
“release your orcas”, “They need to put the owners of seaworld in with the whales”, “CLOSE ! Out of business”, “I wish the sw board of directors would take a swim with Tilly.”, “Close this park”, “These are criminals that need to be dealt with the old fashion way.”, “I would love to throw that arrogant Kelly Clark in the pool with Tilikum and see her fight for her life!”, “Anyone who supports Sea World clearly wouldn’t mind having there children taken from them for business and entertainment”, “I pray they close Seaworld down this is slavery!!”, “I kind of hope Tilikum keeps lashing out”, “Everyone that works and goes to SeaWorld needs to die, alone in a bathtub somewhere”. “Lets all come together and steal these animals to set them free.”, ‘Put the whales back in the ocean NOW.”, “These poor animals need to be set free.”, “I hope Seaworld goes bankrupt and all their investors go broke, then these animals can go back into the ocean.”, “I would rather see these animals put down, then see them locked in a cage.”, “SeaWorld SUCKS !!!!! Let Tilly GO !!!!!!!”, “Zero visitors = SeaWorld going down. No money means they have to set the animals free!!!!.”, “Time to sink this ship, may the captains go down with it and drown, set the orcas free, now!!!”
The movie “Blackfish” has stirred the masses and they are screaming for the animals release, so the question becomes…..
WHAT comes NEXT?
1.) Who will take possession of the animals, make arrangements for transport and oversee the delicate process of fulfilling this goal?
Transporting large marine mammals is not an easy task and can be dangerous for the animal. Expert care will be required. Of course SeaWorld will not be able to be of any help, they have been accused of such horrible atrocities while caring for these animals that people simply will not tolerate their active involvement any longer. Additionally, SeaWorld will be busy taking care of the hundreds of other species in their care; they are after all, about more than just Orca. Whether it is a move to sanctuary or potential release into the wild, someone else will have to handle this monstrous project, as SeaWorld’s assets will need to be refocused on the rest of their animals. Who is stepping up to take charge of these precious animals? Howard Garret or Ingrid Visser, they certainly have the expertise, and appear to have the community support. Will they be taking on the challenge? Gabrielle Cartwright, Davis Kirby and the outspoken former trainers? They started this ball rolling; surely they are prepared to take charge for the benefit of these animals? Will they require payment, or donate their services to the cause as they did the “Blackfish” and “Death at SeaWorld”?
So what is the plan, I am certain there has to be one?
2.) Who will pay for this new sanctuary (even if eventual release is the goal, a sea pen sanctuary will be needed for the interim period)?
The cost of care for a single Orca is extraordinary to most individuals when compared to their income and we are talking about quite a few Orca. After all, SeaWorld has been challenged by “Blackfish” fans to “Release all the Orca”. I cannot fathom the annual budget that will be needed for the endeavor, but I imagine we are talking millions – for clarity sake we can look at the release of Keiko to get a basic dollar number to use. It is estimated that the release of Keiko ran about $20 million in US dollars. It is also reported that the campaign quickly ran out funding shortly before Keiko died in the wild. Using this figure and multiplying it by the number of Orca that SeaWorld cares for we come up with an estimates project amount needed of $440,000,000.00. (Taking into account that this would be IF the project lead to eventual release of ALL the animals and that the time frame for their release is similar to Keiko’s.) If they are not releasable, than there will be funds needed to cover the cost of their care for the REST of their lives, unless a decision is made to euthanize them.
So, What is the business plan? (I know, this will be a not for profit effort, but a business plan is still needed to see if this is even any feasible). I am SURE that profits from the Movie “Blackfish” will be donated to the cause; after all it would not make sense that a documentary of this form would stir people to action and yet pocket the profits that could be used in the cause that they started! So, in the business plan, what is the estimated dollar amount the movie will bring in toward this project? Where will the remaining funds be coming from? Have private donors made commitments of certain dollar amounts annually? Those that have spoken out against SeaWorld, surely they will be willing to put their money where their month is and donate monthly? Certainly people do not expect SeaWorld to sponsor this effort, it is not logistically rational to expect a US company to relocate three parks, and all their animals to a sanctuary location, we are talking about thousands of animals. SeaWorld will be left to focus on the animals that remain in their care, or possible even bankrupt if some people get their wish, so who is going to take charge of this Orca project and be financially responsible for seeing it through, on a Non-Profit basis of course, since so many are up in arms that this animals have been used for profit it would not be fitting for this to turn into a profit making venture? If you are a person screaming that these animals should be free, how much are you willing to commit to in monthly donations to see this through?
3.) What is the logistical plan?
Certainly before raising such fervor over the release of these magnificent animals, the people behind the “cause” have considered feasibility and logistics. Has a location for this sanctuary been chosen? Can the needed permits be obtained? What size area are we talking about and is it one pen area or multiple? Will all the Orca be thrown into one location or will there be degrees of separation between the animals? Since one of the complaints against SeaWorld is the separation of family members, how will that be addressed in the sanctuary?
What personnel plan has been established? How many people will be needed and with what expertise? Is there sufficient land near the sanctuary for support buildings to be erected and are permits attainable for such construction? We are of course talking about more than just the release of a few animals, an undertaking of this size will require significant forethought and planning. Who is the person that is planning for all the needs and requirements who is the “Head” of this “Cause”? What is the release plan, will the Pod of Orca all be released together and what kind of tracking period will be available? Are ALL the Orca currently cared for by SeaWorld eligible for release based on current standards set by NMFS?
4). Contingency Plan?
No matter how much preparation is put into a project of this size, things are bound to go wrong, what plans are in place should things go wrong? If donations stop coming in and funds run out, what then, who will pay for the continued care of the animals, or will it be necessary to set them free and let nature take over? If the Orca become sick to an extent that care is not possible in a Sea Pen, what is the plan? Will the animal be simply quarantined and nature allowed to take its course? Will the animal be euthanized as a last resort? Will the animal be returned to a captive facility for care, and if so, has that facility been considered and chosen? Keep in mind that people all over the world have been convinced of SeaWorld’s evilness, so a return to SeaWorld is not possible. If the animals die as a result of this move and the push to set them free or send them to sanctuary, who will shoulder the blame?
It is so easy to get wrapped up in the emotions a movie like “Blackfish” stir within us; in fact that is the purpose of movies like this. Emotions take over and the solutions seem simple. “Blackfish” convinces viewers that these animals are abused, tortured and miserable. “Blackfish” makes solutions seem easy and attainable. I have seen comments on social media like “Set them free”, “Let the Orca go”, “Shut down SeaWorld” and “Hope SeaWorld goes Bankrupt”. All highly emotional charged comments, filled with simplicity in an extremely complicated situation. What I want to know, without debating captivity as an issue, is WHAT comes next if this movement succeeds? Surrounded by people who claim to care about the animals, surely these things have been considered and I would love to know the answers.
I invite any and all discussion on the idea of what would come next. This is NOT going to be a debate on captivity as those debates never get anywhere. I have written this to dig deeper into the matter of what would take place if those that are asking others to boycott SeaWorld actually succeeded in their desires. Furthermore, I would love to hear input from those individuals that have been at the forefront of this movement; Gabriela Cowperthwaite, Howard Garrett, Ingrid Visser, Naomi Rose, Samantha Berg, Tim Zimmerman, John Hargrove, and John Jett. It really is a question left unanswered in the movie “Blackfish”; WHAT COMES NEXT?