Subject: Documentary re. aquarium killer whales (fwd)

Mike Williamson (
Mon, 3 Nov 1997 10:25:41 -0500 (EST)


---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Mon, 3 Nov 1997 04:33:00 -0800
From: MARMAM Editors <marmamed@UVic.CA>
Reply-To: Marine Mammals Research and Conservation Discussion
Subject: (fwd) Documentary re. aquarium killer whales


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
remains in captivity.  Keiko, who played Willy in the Warner Bros. movie,
is the focus of a worldwide movement to returned him to the wild-a 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,
crane operators, and animal advocates worked together to carry out a plan
that had 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 States.  Now being cared for in Oregon, Keiko is in a unique
position.  The only whale 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 in the future of this eighteen-year-old
        On Tuesday, November 11, at 9 p.m., on PBS (check local listings),
FRONTLINE examines the money, power, and politics behind the captive
marine 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 this controversial issue, interviewing Sea World
executives, marine mammal experts, and advocates who believe the animals
should be freed.  Immediately following 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
have 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 and 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 named Keiko."
        "A Whale of a Business" includes interviews with the key players
in Keiko's saga: his current veterinarian; those responsible for his
transfer to 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
the 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
Griffin, the owner of a small Seattle aquarium, heard that an orca had
been caught by local fishermen and bought the whale from them for $8,000.
Today, the United States is the largest player in this global industry.
In the U.S. alone, the twelve largest aquariums took in more than $700
million in 1995.  The marine parks' managers confirm that performing
dolphins and whales are their star attractions and their largest audience
        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 come 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
drive 100 bottlenose dolphins, 50 false killer whales, and 50 pilot whales
into a harbor.  Buyers select the best looking animals for purchase by
aquariums; the rest of the animals are slaughtered for the expanding
Japanese "whalemeat"  market.
        Marine mammal advocates use accepted research in their arguments
for releasing the animals.  In addition to complaints about the size and
shape of the animals' pools (which they say do not take into account the
mammals' needs 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
that the animals have a good, secure life in captivity and that the
educational value for children justifies any loneliness these animals may
experience.  Jim Antrim, a Sea World spokesperson, says their aim is "to
make people aware of 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 after 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
bath toys, instead of treating them like prey," says producer Neil
Docherty.  "It shows how much has been taken away from these animals when
they are removed from the wild.  While it may be a noble idea to release
these magnificent creatures, we are left wondering if it is even
        "Keiko is not a good candidate.  He's been dependent upon humans
for 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
chief veterinarian for Sea World Jim McBain.
        Another hurdle for Keiko is the skin virus he developed in
captivity.  Some say if he is set free now, he could spread the virus to
populations of wild orcas.  But critics say many whales in the open ocean
have the virus and that it is being used to delay Keiko's release.
        But the greatest difficulty is the unknown.  No other captive
killer whale has ever been released, and it is difficult to predict
Keiko's success.
        "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
not 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
marine mammal collections raises a loud debate.  Like any other industry,
the marine 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
stations:  WGBH Boston, WTVS Detroit, WPBT Miami, WNET New York, KCTS
        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.


o The Debate-marine mammal experts on the pros and cons of releasing

o Details of the U.S. Navy's use of dolphins and beluga whales for
underwater surveillance and recovery missions;

o Audio recordings of Keiko's songs;

o Video of the violent Japanese drive fisheries, where hundreds of
dolphins and whales are rounded up to be sold to marine parks or

o A marine biologist's first person account of an attempted release of
nine dolphins from an Australian marine park;

o 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
population-80 animals-at one time.  Now he's had a change of heart.

Press contacts:  Jim Bracciale [] Rick Byrne
[] Chris Kelly []

Press and PBS station inquiries: (617) 783-3500 Viewer comments and
inquiries: (617) 492-2777 X5355


Howard Garrett
Lolita campaign
HoBox 1037
Lynnwood WA  98046
425-787-2500, Ext. 842
Fax: 425-742-5711

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