Freeing Our Captive Whales

photo of wild orca roaming freely in the wild rather than being bound in a small tank

photo of wild orca roaming freely in the wild rather than being bound in a small tank

Ever since the documentary “Black Fish” came out, there have been large debates on whether to keep whales in captivity or let them go. “Blackfish” is a documentary about a popular marine life park called Sea World and its captive orca whales. Sea World has been capturing Orca whales from their natural habitats since 1961, and although it is now illegal to capture and captivate whales, there are still currently 59 orcas in captivity. At the end of the day, whales do not belong in captivity.

One- hundred percent of captive male whales have either partially or fully collapsed dorsal fins. Seaworld tries to claim to be normal and says in the wild it is a common deformity as well, but in the wild, only 23% of whales have the same collapsed fin. One of the reasons all of sea world’s orca males have a collapsed dorsal fin is said to be a lack of nutrition from thawed out dead fish they are fed. Another is the lack of swimming room they have in the tiny tanks compared to the wide-open oceans they should be in. This affects them because constantly all day they are at the surface of the water with little to no room to swim down. A wild whale dives up to 1000 feet so they are shielded from the sun for a little bit.

Another downside to keeping whales in captivity is premature deaths that happen when they are captive. The average lifespan of a whale kept in captivity is about 14 years and although some have been recorded at dying at 30 it is very rare. In the wild whales are recorded to live between 30-50. A males maximum lifespan in the wild is 60 to 80 and for females 70-100. That is much longer than the average life span for captive whales. Not only are we taking them away from their natural habitats but sea world is also shaving many years of the whales’ beautiful lives off.  Another reason for their short life spans is aggression with other whales. The whales will get frustrated and attack one another leaving bad rake marks and sometimes deep wounds that can get a serious infection and make the whale either sick or kill it.

One of the biggest upsets to keeping whales in captivity is the small amount of tank space that they are provided to live in compared to the miles upon miles of ocean that they were born to thrive in. An average sea world tank is about 0.7 miles long and 35 feet deep. Orcas swim up to 100 miles per day in the wild and dive up to 1000 feet as well. If comparing the two living situations, the captive tank is practically a shoebox compared to the wild. This is the main root of all the health and behavior problems that occur with the captive whales.

Although all these problems have come up with keeping whales in captivity there are some upsides to having them outside of the oceans. 

Sea World provides many educational shows rather than the old circus shows they started off with. They teach kids about orcas and gives them the opportunity to get up-close and personal with the whales. It’s a guarantee that when you go to sea world, there will be a killer whale for you to see. But, there are plenty of other ways to see and learn about killer whales than keeping them captive.

People who go on whale watches get to see whales in their natural habitats and see the normal behaviors of the species rather than see them behind glass in a tank that’s much too small. Whale watches are extremely educational and tell you more about wild whales than what sea world has to say about them. There are also videos and books that talk about the species that you can get information on. 

Spending money at sea world supports what they are doing to the whales. Although it may be nice to be able to go somewhere and be guaranteed to see a whale, in reality, we are being selfish and mistreating them for our own amusement.