A San Diego Progressive Takes On SeaWorld

Originally posted on Tim Zimmermann:

Is this the best use of valuable San Diego property?

Not everyone who lives in San Diego thinks San Diego needs to protect SeaWorld. Linda Perine, of the Democratic Womans Club, wades into the fray with facts, links, and a fierce attitude:

Being very well connected and making a lot of contributions to politicians allows a business a fair amount of leeway, especially in San Diego.

As Voice of San Diego pointed out in one of its somewhat boosterish articles Sea World By the Numbers  Sea World employs up to 4,500 people, albeit many are temporary positions and minimum wage.

As was mentioned before, Sea World pays a percentage of its income as rent on a lease to the City that some view as extraordinarily favorable to Sea World.  While putting $14 million into the public coffers may be an attention getter, it is nowhere near what it ought…

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The Virgin Pledge** (**Including Loopholes And Caveats)

Originally posted on Tim Zimmermann:

After months of deliberation, Sir Richard Branson has finally settled on the language of the pledge he wants captive facilities to make if they would like to continue to do business with Virgin companies. Here is how the Virgin Pledge reads:


While Branson and Virgin should get credit for at least engaging on this issue, and while this pledge would mean that a marine park can’t just buy a Taiji dolphin and continue to do business with Virgin, that’s about all it achieves. If you caught lots of wild dolphins for your shows before February 2014, no problem. If you engage in breeding loans with marine parks that capture wild dolphins and killer whales, no problem as long as the animal you are importing wasn’t wild caught (though it can be the offspring of a wild dolphin or whale, allowing your breeding program to benefit from wild captures). So the…

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What’s Wrong With Kayla the Killer Whale?

Kayla 5

It has been well documented that Tilikum spends the majority of his time logging at the surface of his tank, but it turns out he is not the only one.

At a recent visit to SeaWorld Orlando, Kayla also spent an exorbitant amount of time stationary at the surface while her tankmates swam circles around her.  Kayla was born in November 1988, making her the second oldest captive born killer whale in SeaWorld’s collection at only 25 years old.

In Death at SeaWorld, David Kirby reported that Kayla had been taken away from her mother at 2 years old.  In October 2005 she gave birth to Halyn in San Antonio.  Having never learned maternal skills, she rejected her calf.  Halyn died in San Antonio at only two and a half years old.   In November 2006 Kayla was moved from San Antonio to Orlando.

According the NOAA, female Killer Whales in the wild typically live about 50 years but can live as long as 100 years.  Granny, the infamous matriarch of the Southern Resident Killer Whales, is estimated to be 103 years old.  Granny made waves earlier this year when she was spotted after traveling 800 miles in a little over a week with her pod.

Then there’s Kayla…

Naomi Rose of Animal Welfare Institute observed that “the logging behavior was excessive and especially troubling given the activity of the other whales in the tank” 

To put things in perspective

What’s Happening at Wild Arctic?


A short distance away from Shamu Stadium, ​My Fox Orlando reported on Tuesday that SeaWorld has recently acquired their “most eligible beluga bachelor”, Nanuq.  Nanuq arrived in Orlando from San Diego in June in hopes of expanding their beluga family.  Belugas typically do not fair well in captivity.  The ​oldest reported, Kavna, died at Vancouver Aquarium in 2012 at 46 years old.  Vancouver Park Board recently ​voted unanimously to ban further breeding of captive cetaceans.  Meanwhile, Georgia Aquarium continues ​the fight to import 18 wild-captured belugas from Russia.

Perhaps SeaWorld decided to report the news this week to divert attention from the ​death of their last polar bear, Johnny, last week. Johnny’s enclosure had been boarded up with no explanation.  Time will tell if SeaWorld will ​honor his death by keeping it empty.

Broken Ties, Polar Bear Dies, Audience Cries


Thursday, news broke that SeaWorld and Southwest Airlines were parting ways.  This was cause for celebration for those who have been in quiet communications with Southwest Airlines and others who have petitioned them to request the end of their long-running relationship. However, SeaWorld has stated that the decision was mutual because they want to concentrate on growing markets in Latin America and Asia.  With less animal protections in these countries, the split is not all good news for those animals who might be captured or shipped to fill the new market.

These broken ties are obviously a step in the right direction, but there is more work to be done. Virgin Holidays has claimed to remain dedicated to ocean conservation, yet even afterengaging stakeholders in the conversation about cetaceans and tourism in June, they continue to sell trips to SeaWorld.  

WWF has also come under fire in the past months after The Dodo exposed their relationship with SeaWorld.  WWF states that they are mandated to protect and serve endangered animals in the wild, but animals in captivity falls outside of that protection.  As an organization who claims to protect endangered animals it is interesting to find that Southern Resident Killer Whales, an endangered species due partially to SeaWorld’s captures, are not even acknowledged on the WWF ​website.   

It is encouraging to see major victories like the broken ties of Southwest Airlines, but this is only one step in the big picture. Continued pressure is needed to education others like ​@VirginHolidays and ​@WWF and sign the petitions to ​Richard Branson and ​WWF.

Later Thursday night, Orlando Sentinel reported that SeaWorld Orlando’s last polar bear, Johnny, died unexpectedly.  Following a physical exam under anesthesia, Johnny was suspected to have gone into cardiac arrest during recovery according to SeaWorld’s attending vets.  The park experienced another polar bear death last September when 18 year old Klondike died unexpectedly.  We can only hope that SeaWorld comes to realize that polar bears don’t belong in captivity, or in Florida.  It’s time for the polar bear enclosure to remain empty.

SeaWorld’s #SeaofSurprises has experienced it’s challenges since the celebration started in March, but the biggest one might be yet to come. Part of their anniversary celebration includes new shows to replace those that have been running for a long time. The first of these new shows is Shamu’s Celebration, the night show at Shamu Stadium replacing the older Shamu Rocks.  The new show includes original music after artists such as Joan Jett asked them to stop using her music.

On August 10, SeaWorld will end their long-running Clyde and Seamore Take Pirate Island. Orlando Sentinel has predicted the possibility of losing loyal fans with this move.  Losing fans while trying desperately to regain their appeal could potentially accelerate the natural death process of this struggling theme park.

Learn more on Facebook and Twitter @oceanadvocatefl  


The Faces of San Juan Island – John Boyd

John, or JB as he is known by some, grew up in the 60s and loved watching the TV show “Flipper”. He was jealous of Bud & Sandy hanging with a dolphin and have it rescue them every week. He wanted a dolphin too. That love for dolphins stayed with him through college, where he went to Texas A&M and started to study marine biology. However, his junior year in college he changed majors and ended up with a Bachelor of Science in Phys Ed & Biology. He taught outdoor education and met his wife in Houston before deciding to avoid the heat and moving to Oregon.  


Living in Oregon for 6 years, they would go exploring on their Goldwing motorcycle. Weather dictated where they went, and somehow one day they ended up in line to catch a ferry to the San Juan Islands.  They explored the island and lucked upon Lime Kiln. Back then there was no parking lot, just some spots in the woods to park.  As they walked down to the lighthouse, people were walking up telling them they just missed a group of whales go by.  But they sat on the rocks and waited…and waited…for 2 hours.  Just as they were about to give up they heard a loud “woooosh!” Soon they saw them, about 30 fins coming right up along shore. They were the only 2 people there.  John describes the experience as magical and decided then that one day he’d live on this island.

Fast forward a few years to 1996. They decided that it was time to leave Oregon.  San Juan Island would be their new home. John began to volunteer with this somewhat new program called Soundwatch with Kari Koski. For the first week of going out, he didn’t see a single whale. When he finally did, he was hooked again. He’d find every chance to get on the water.

The final hook was their first kayak trip in new kayaks. After 3 exhausting hours of where everything went wrong, suddenly they heard a loud woosh right behind his boat. His wife’s eyes were huge as she said “HUGE dorsal fin behind you!” Suddenly John was looking UP to see a massive dorsal fin that was like a Ruffles potato chip (Yup, J1).  This energized him like never before. A few minutes later came another wooosh! This time J2 Granny came up right next to his wife’s boat. The rest of the trip was a blur and all they could do was smile. Now he was hooked even more.

John began working as a marine naturalist in 2000 after taking the marine naturalist training class. He started out with another whale watch company, but once he met Ivan, his current boss, he knew he wanted to work on the Western Prince.  Once a spot opened up, he never looked back.  For John, working on a whale watch boat combines his passion of whales along with his passion for teaching.  He loves to see “the light turn on” in the minds of passengers when they see an orca for the first time and start to ask about the life history of whales and the interdependency of whales and salmon (and humans). It is rewarding for him to show people how whales have a true culture, how they have a language and family structure, and how whales go from being this “show animal” they see in captivity to an animal that is dynamic in the wild.

photo (1)

A scientist once told him in reference to potential factors watching whales from a boat might present, “JB, if you are doing your job right and turning your passengers into advocates of orcas and their environment, you are doing far more good than harm….”  He feels extremely strongly that people who encounter wild orcas get the true magic of seeing these whales—they are not performing for our benefit, but they are behaving in a manner consistent with whales with strong social and familial structures.

John was with Soundwatch for 16 years. He was one of the 9 founding members of SSAMN (Salish Sea Association of Marine Naturalists), and one of the only founders still serving on the board. SSAMN was formed to ensure that naturalists working in this area all have the same knowledge base so the information they disseminate is the same He is a supporter of The Whale Museum, The Center for Whale Research, and supported Killer Whale Tales. He’s been a volunteer aboard Moja with Conservation Canines, helped aboard the NOAA ship collecting scale samples with Brad Hansen and Robin Baird, and helped from time to time with maintaining the hydrophone array with Val Viers. He also has a book in the works called Diary of a Whale Watcher that he hopes to put out next year. 

As have so many others, John refers to Ruffles (J1) as “his boy”. One day a passenger asked him how often big males like Ruffles breach. He  told him not often as he’s getting old and all.  So jokingly, as Ruffles came by the boat I yelled “You’re old and all, but it would be awesome if you’d breach right here in front of the boat”. I had pointed to a spot just off the bow. Ruffles went down and next thing we know, he launched out of the water right where John pointed! People were stunned. The other naturalist said “we have to get you a raise…” The next day he’s out again, and tells the story of Ruffles from the day before. Jokingly again (and with camera in hand) he yells the same thing again….and Ruffles breached exactly where he pointed!!!  People began to call him a “whale whisperer.”  


Photo of Ruffles taken by John

John’s boat is named Wave Walker, after L88. Still considered somewhat “young”, he has high hopes that he’ll grow into the next Ruffles or Faith (L57).

The Faces of San Juan Island – Erin Corra

Last week’s Superpod 3 was nothing short of amazing.  A group of old friends and newcomers, some who only knew each other by their facebook or twitter profile pictures, met together to celebrate Southern Resident #Blackfish, share ideas, and watch whales in their natural environment.  For those of us who had never been on San Juan Island, we quickly learned and shared the local resident’s passion for the island.

An iconic highlight of San Juan Island is the infamous lighthouse at Lime Kiln Point State Park. As a first time visitor, I couldn’t wait to see it in person.  Luckily, one of the first people I met on the island was Erin Corra.  I quickly realized what an imperative role she has played in saving the educational program of this beloved park.

Erin Corra illuminates passion for the island that she calls home.  Her bright spirit shines through as soon as you meet her…and it’s contagious.  She is quick to share that enthusiasm with anyone in her path.  This enthusiasm thrust her into action to save the educational programs that were threatened to be lost just a few short years ago.


In 2010, state budget cuts caused Erin to lose her job at Lime Kiln State Park as Interpretive Specialist – a position she had held since 2007.  Initially, the Center for Whale Research stepped up as an umbrella fiscal agent to keep the programs “afloat” at the park.  That allowed time to come up with a more sustainable solution and Friends of Lime Kiln Society (FOLKS) was launched in the fall of 2011 with Erin as Founder and Program Director.

FOLKS is made possible in collaboration with the Washington State Parks Foundation.  Lime Kiln Point State Park is a key location for public education and promotion of protection of the Southern Resident Killer Whales.  Close contact with the whales inspires people to change the way they live in their environment to help protect these magnificent but threatened beings. Over 200,000 visitors from 40+ countries visit the park each year to view and learn about the SRKW. It is clearly a critical education habitat that must be protected as passionately as the whales themselves. That is what FOLKS is all about.


Not only is Lime Kiln Point a fantastic place to watch whales in their natural habitat, but it also offers other unique flora and fauna including the beautifully red-barked Madrona tree, deer, eagles and other wildlife.

FOLKS mission is to provide a unique experience for visitors through support & development of educational programs and activities related to Lime Kiln Point State Park’s extraordinary location, diverse ecosystems, and historic structures.


When not working at the park, Erin is also involved in other ways to protect the island’s natural resources, including eelgrasses of the Salish Sea.  She also serves as Volunteer Director for Eelgrass Project Outreach and provides outreach at SJI Farmer’s Market every Saturday.

Who is Erin’s favorite orca you might ask?  GRANNY! J2


Photo taken by Jill Hein

Granny, estimated to be 103 years old, is the famous matriarch of J pod.  As a great-grandmother, Granny traveled 800 miles off the Canadian cost this year. I have to agree with Erin who says “Granny by far is the wisest mama out there!”

Consider donating to FOLKS to help keep this iconic park open as an educational and research platform and help inspire park visitors to become more environmentally responsible for our future.

Part one of the Faces of San Juan Island – Melisa Pinnow can be found here if you missed it.