BY GREG CAPELLI
I, like all of you, am a human. As a human, there are things that I anatomically cannot do. I cannot fly, I need to eat to survive and I cannot grow gills. There are also things I should not do. While I can pet a dog or a cat, I would never try to do the same with a tiger or hyena. Most importantly, I would be crazy to enter the den of any 12,000 pound mega-killing apex predator.
Yet, people have been doing just that for many years. “Blackfish” is a documentary that follows the dangers of attempting to train killer whales and questions the safety and morality of keeping them in captivity. While most documentaries dealing with a political topic tend to be blatantly one sided, “Blackfish” stays leveled by interviewing both those for and against whale captivity.
The premise of the documentary is simple: killer whales are the most dominant predators in the ocean (they have been known to hunt great white sharks), while humans are 150 pound bipods who do badly in water—if both were placed in a swimming pool, bad things will probably happen. Primarily, the film follows the story of Tilikum the whale, who is a 12,000-pound male orca kept in captivity since adolescence. The whale has been involved in the deaths of 3 people, yet continues to be kept for breeding purposes at Sea World, Orlando.
The documentary has sent shockwaves across the nation, influencing both California and New York lawmakers to introduce bills banning orca captivity. The film heavily questions the ethics and safety of training with captive orcas, causing even the most level headed individuals to do the same. The film also praises past Washington state legislature heavily limiting the capture of orca whales passed in the early 1970s.
The film has had a huge impact financially on Sea World, alternate zoos and aquariums, and their supporters. It questions the legitimacy of keeping whales in captivity, and the safety of training killer whales. The film has crippled Sea World, which suffered from a $16 million loss this year and a 33 percent decline in stock value since the films premier. Meanwhile, Southwest Airlines, a partner with SeaWorld since 1988, announced that it would not renew the partnership in 2014.