Curious as to public opinion (particularly pro-caps and anti-caps) on whale watching?

I’ve seen a couple things (mainly from this post) on how whale watching tours can be invasive to wild dolphins and whales. I’ve also seen some proposals for whale watching as an alternative to visiting SeaWorld and the like, for people who what to see these animals in person. 

Just wondering if people support or oppose whale watching, and in what form (boat tours, swim with, kayak tours, etc.)?

This is my response to that bogus photo going around about Blackfish trainers. Who do you believe? #killerwhale #killerwhales #orca #orcas #seaworld #captivitykills #dontbuyaticket #blackfish #abusementpark #whale #animal #wildlife #anticap #procap #seaworldsucks #peta #boycottseaworld #zoo #animalabuse #animalcruelty #emptythetanks #endseaworld #freetilly #shamu #wild

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Ten questions for pro caps.

Because I’m genuinely curious and cannot understand your point of view. I would like to get some honest answers, if anyone is brave enough. And possibly by the end of it, we can understand one another better.

1. Do you believe SeaWorld should be held accountable for the deaths of  many whales under their care, none of which could be deemed “natural deaths”? If not, why?:

2. Do you believe SeaWorld should have willingly changed its business model decades ago, when they realized the orcas were not thriving? If not, why?:

3. SeaWorld’s orcas suffer from many mental/physical problems as a result of captivity. (Do not dispute this, that is a fact. it isn’t up for debate). Do you believe keeping them on display to “inspire” the public is more important then the welfare of the animals?:

4. Do you believe SeaWorld should have to explain themselves and apologize for telling so many blatant lies to the public? (Again, this fact is not up for debate.) If not, why?:

5. Do you still trust SeaWorld to be transparent and honest, after they have been caught in so many lies? If so, why?:

6. What do you think about a SeaWorld rep saying “You ban them, you buy them” in response to AB2140? Does it bother you that that statement seems to be a direct contradiction to “We couldn’t love these animals more”?:

7. Research has shown orcas are too intelligent, complex, large, and free-ranging to live a quality life in captivity. Captive orcas health seems to reflect that research. Why don’t you believe this?:

8. Why don’t you support a slow phase-out of captivity?:

9. Do you believe SeaWorld has a reputable breeding program? If so, why?:

10. SeaWorld claims to do important research that benefits wild whales. Can you give an example of this?:


Blackfish and the anti-captivity debate

A lot of people make the mistake of assuming that anti-cap protesters only came about after watching Blackfish but this is simply not true. Here are just a few examples of people protesting captivity of cetaceans long before Blackfish.

1983 UK newspaper clippings show talk of investigations into Clacton Pier, UK, and their whales. Greenpeace, the RSPCA and even the government have looked into the situation, which is described as “totally inadequate”. There is talk of a postcard protest to put pressure on the local council. (x)

A newspaper clipping from 1983 tells of a protest planned at Clacton Pier to free the Whales there. Another tells of one of the orcas, Neptune, dying and Greenpeace saying that if they were freed this never would have happened. One more tells of a bid to buy the last of the three, Nemo, to be rehabilitated and released. All three clippings can be found here (x)

In this video there is an interview with a member of Greenpeace talking about the campaign to free an orca called Nemo who was being moved from Clacton Pier, UK, in 1985.

This article from 1985 shows that Seaworld where stopped from capturing orca from Alaska by environmentalist groups.

In 1991 there was a, successful, campaign to close the UK’s remaining dolphinaria called Into the Blue. This campaign was supported by the Mail on Sunday and several animal rights groups. Due to overwhelming public support the government implemented strict standards that no UK establishment could meet. Three of the dolphins were rehabilitated and released. (x) (x)

Photo sources (x) (x)

I really wanted to touch on the fact that orcas, including Kiska, are self-aware and sentient animals. These are not creatures that you can just stick in an empty tank and expect them to be fine.

Kiska was violently ripped from her family in 1979 and has been held at Marineland Canada ever since. According to a former employee, she has never been a strong whale and is constantly on medication. Her condition only worsened after the deaths of all 5 of her calves, the oldest only surviving six years. Kiska has also suffered the loss of every one of her tankmates. She now lives entirely alone, and is the only captive orca in the world without another cetacean companion.
The saddest sight to be seen at Marineland, Kiska’s life consists of swimming listlessly in circles day in and day out. Occasionally, she is given a toy to play with for a few minutes. Former employees have also described Kiska as “starved for attention” and say she vocalizes a lot, as if calling out for someone.
Allowing such a magnificent animal to languish in these conditions is nothing short of abusive.
There is an ongoing campaign to help Kiska, and all you have to do is sign here and spread the word. Please help us help the world’s loneliest orca!

One thing about lifespan I think we need to make clear is “sample bias”.

I’m left-handed, and I was quite aghast a few years ago when I read that left-handed people live on average nine years less than right-handed people! I wondered, how is that possible?

So I recently looked it up, and the answer was in the way the study had been made. It came from a study decades ago, when they had looked up 2000 dead people, contacted their relatives and asked if the dead person was left- or right-handed.
And what they found, was, like I said, left-handed people live on average nine years less.

But they had made a mistake, in that they had forgot to consider something.
Long ago, in the first half of the last century and before, it was not acceptable to be left-handed. Children were forced to use their right hand in school (this happened to my grandfather), and in severe cases, their left hand was tied behind their backs. So they became right-handed.

So in that study, any people that were left-handed would have HAD to have died young, because before, there *were* almost no left-handed people. So “left-handed people live nine years less” is false.

This is how I see the current discussion on orca lifespan.
Orca captivity is 50 years old this year.
50-60 years is considered average lifespan for females, and maximum lifespan for males. Neither male nor female has had any chance of reaching their maximum lifespan yet, and females have barely had enough time to reach their average.

So how could we possibly compare the captive population with wild whales that are 50, 60, 70 and more years old? How can anyone possibly think that’s fair? There is going to be a huge “sample bias”.

What I would be interested in, is if we would count only wild whales born since the 60s or 70s (captivity in those days was very poor so I don’t see that as really fair either), and then still, the captive population is really small.
So skip all the wild whales born before the 60s or 70s (there are no and were never any captive whales born before then), and only use as many (random) wild whales as there are captive examples.
Then I think we would get a much more *honest* calculation.

(Also, remember that, according to the document “Conservation Plan for Southern Resident Killer Whales”, life expectancy at birth is as low as 29 for females and 17 for males - and that is raised to 50-60 for females and 29 for males once they reach adolescence, which means many wild orcas die young.)