Subject: Television: PBS FRONTLINE "A Whale of a Business"

mike williamson (
Wed, 29 Oct 1997 12:36:26 -0500 (EST)

PBS airdate: Tuesday, November 11, 9 P.M., 60 minutes
Despite three Hollywood feature films and a six-year, multimillion 
dollar grassroots campaign, the killer whale who starred in Free Willy
in captivity.  Keiko, who played Willy in the Warner Bros. movie, is the
of a worldwide movement to returned him to the wilda move which was
opposed by many in the $1-billion-a-year marine park industry.  
        On January 7, 1996, a team of veterinarians, airline workers,
operators, and animal advocates worked together to carry out a plan that
been in the works for two years: moving the five-ton whale, Keiko, from a 
Mexican theme park to a newly built rehabilitation tank in the United
Now being cared for in Oregon, Keiko is in a unique position.  The only
in captivity not required to perform, he is being prepared for life in the 
wild.  While his eventual freedom is not yet a certainty, much is at stake
the future of this eighteen-year-old whale.
        On Tuesday, November 11, at 9 p.m., on PBS (check local listings), 
FRONTLINE examines the money, power, and politics behind the captive
mammal industry.  Through the story of Keiko's eighteen years in
captivity, the program explores the capture, shipment, and treatment of
marine mammals, the 
laws governing those activities, as well as human understanding of and 
relationship with these large creatures.  FRONTLINE looks at all sides of
controversial issue, interviewing Sea World executives, marine mammal
and advocates who believe the animals should be freed.  Immediately
the broadcast, Straight Talk with Derek McGinty presents "Animals in 
Captivity," airing at 10 p.m. (check local listings).  The program
features a 
discussion by a panel of experts and questions from a studio audience
about the ethical dilemmas of keeping wild animals in captivity.
        "Ever since Flipper leaped onto our TVs in the sixties, audiences
been captivated by dolphins and whales," says FRONTLINE producer Renata
Simone.  "We take a hard look at the industry behind the spectacle and
find a bitter 
war between activists who fervently believe these animals should be free
corporations like Sea World where entertainment, image, and sales are the 
objective.  In the middle of this balancing act is an 10,000 pound whale
        "A Whale of a Business" includes interviews with the key players
Keiko's saga: his current veterinarian; those responsible for his transfer
the new rehabilitation pool, including Craig McCaw, the billionaire 
entrepreneur who underwrote much of Keiko's rehabilitation project; the 
producers of Free Willy, Lauren Schuler-Donner and Jenny Lew Tugen; and 
government ministers in Iceland, who must give permission for Keiko to be 
returned home.
        "There was no question that the moral imperative was created by
movie," Craig McCaw tells FRONTLINE.  "If you convince several billion
children that the whale got free...and then you don't fulfill that dream,
you have 
broken a promise to children all over the world."
        The marine amusement industry had its start in 1965 when Ted
the owner of a small Seattle aquarium, heard that an orca had been caught
local fishermen and bought the whale from them for $8,000.  Today, the
States is the largest player in this global industry.  In the U.S. alone,
twelve largest aquariums took in more than $700 million in 1995.  The
parks' managers confirm that performing dolphins and whales are their star 
attractions and their largest audience draw.
        Susan Davis, associate professor of communications at the
University of California, San Diego, and an expert on theme parks, calls
the layout at the 
flagship Sea World, "a landscape that tells you, on the one hand, if you
here you'll be doing something good for the oceans and consume, consume, 
consume.  That's a contradiction."
        "A Whale of a Business" takes viewers to two recent fish drives in 
Japan where, using underwater sound to disorient the animals, fishermen
100 bottlenose dolphins, 50 false killer whales, and 50 pilot whales into
harbor.  Buyers select the best looking animals for purchase by aquariums;
rest of the animals are slaughtered for the expanding Japanese "whalemeat" 
        Marine mammal advocates use accepted research in their arguments
releasing the animals.  In addition to complaints about the size and shape
the animals' pools (which they say do not take into account the mammals'
for acoustic stimulation), advocates also point to data showing that sea 
mammals' life expectancy in captivity is little more than one-third of the 
expectancy in the wild.
        FRONTLINE looks at marine park industry representatives' argument
the animals have a good, secure life in captivity and that the educational 
value for children justifies any loneliness these animals may experience.
Antrim, a Sea World spokesperson, says their aim is "to make people aware
how remarkable whales and dolphins are so that people will endorse
measures to 
protect them in the wild."
        Advocates counter that marine parks teach the wrong lessons. "This 
model teaches that man is in charge and has the right to destroy any other 
animal's natural life," says Ken Balcomb, who is director of the Whale
Research Center in Washington State.  "Is that what we really want our
kids to learn?"
        But is releasing Keiko and other dolphins and whales a realistic 
solution?  Some of those involved in moving Keiko to his rehabilitation
tank in Oregon have left in frustration over delays in his release.  Some
blame the 
delay on the influence of marine park insiders working with Keiko.  But
years of being held in a relatively small tank, Keiko must overcome a
number of obstacles before he will be able to survive in the wild,
including being 
retrained to hunt fish.
        "It's an amazing spectacle to see Keiko nuzzling live fish like
toys, instead of treating them like prey," says producer Neil Docherty.
shows how much has been taken away from these animals when they are
from the wild.  While it may be a noble idea to release these magnificent 
creatures, we are left wondering if it is even possible."
        "Keiko is not a good candidate.  He's been dependent upon humans
his food, his interaction.  He's an animal that's adapted to living in an 
oceanarium environment and done so successfully for many years," says
veterinarian for Sea World Jim McBain.
        Another hurdle for Keiko is the skin virus he developed in
Some say if he is set free now, he could spread the virus to populations
wild orcas.  But critics say many whales in the open ocean have the virus
that it is being used to delay Keiko's release.
        But the greatest difficulty is the unknown.  No other captive
whale has ever been released, and it is difficult to predict Keiko's
        "We're not going to release any of the animals in our collection 
because they've been in our collection for long periods of time, and we're
going to put them at risk where they can die," Brad Andrews, corporate
director for Sea World, tells FRONTLINE.
84%going to put them at risk where they can die," Brad Andrews, corporate
director for Sea World, tells FRONTLINE.
        The question of whether parks should be required to free their
mammal collections raises a loud debate.  Like any other industry, the
parks say they should be allowed to make money from these popular
attractions.  But there is a ground swell of voices saying man's
interaction with animals has to evolve into a new form.

        "A Whale of a Business" is produced by Renata Simone and Neil
        FRONTLINE is produced by a consortium of public television
WGBH Boston, WTVS Detroit, WPBT Miami, WNET New York, KCTS Seattle.
        Funding for FRONTLINE is provided through the support of PBS
        FRONTLINE is closed-captioned for deaf and hard-of-hearing
        The executive producer for FRONTLINE is Michael Sullivan.
        The senior executive producer for FRONTLINE is David Fanning.

       The Debatemarine mammal experts on the pros and cons of releasing 
       Details of the U.S. Navy's use of dolphins and beluga whales for 
underwater surveillance and recovery missions;
       Audio recordings of Keiko's songs;
       Video of the violent Japanese drive fisheries, where hundreds of 
dolphins and whales are rounded up to be sold to marine parks or
       A marine biologist's first person account of an attempted release
nine dolphins from an Australian marine park;
       The story of Ted Griffin, the first person to capture a killer
whale in 1965.  A pioneer in the marine mammal capture business, he once
captured the 
entire Washington-Southern Vancouver Island resident orca population80 
animalsat one time.  Now he's had a change of heart.
ENDentire Washington-Southern Vancouver Island resident orca population80 
animalsat one time.  Now he's had a change of heart.
Press contacts:
Jim Bracciale []                  
Rick Byrne []
Chris Kelly []
Press and PBS station inquiries:                                (617)
Viewer comments and inquiries:                          (617) 492-2777

                      J. Michael Williamson
Principal Investigator-WhaleNet <>
                   Associate Professor-Science
  Wheelock College, 200 The Riverway, Boston, MA 02215
             voice: 617.734.5200, ext. 256
            fax:    617.734.8666, or 978.468.0073

"Follow in my wake, you've not that much at stake,
For I have plowed the seas, and smoothed the troubled waters"
                        Jimmy Buffett