Blackfish is a documentary following the life of Tilikum the orca, also known as the ‘killer’ whale, that has killed three people while in captivity. The documentary airs tomorrow on CNN with the tagline Never Capture What you Can’t Control. I encourage those who can to take a look at the documentary tomorrow (thursday) night at 9pm ET/PT. It is also showing in some theaters.

It’s been causing a few waves in the community of people who make a living off of the exploitation of marine mammals, especially places like SeaWorld. SeaWorld did agree to respond to a few questions from CNN and you can find the interview here. It’s not surprising that they chose to defend themselves, and while they argued that (in so many words) they do more good for marine mammals than they do bad. They argue that they provide the resources to save thousands of marine mammals a year, which I think their intention was to say that while they may take some critically endangered animals out of the wild, even if there are breeding pairs producing individuals, they still help way more than they hurt.

Now this is the synopsis of the as described on it’s website:

Many of us have experienced the excitement and awe of watching 8,000 pound orcas, or “killer whales,” soar out of the water and fly through the air at sea parks, as if in perfect harmony with their trainers. Yet this mighty black and white mammal has many sides – a majestic, friendly giant, seemingly eager to take trainers for a ride around the pool, yet shockingly – and unpredictably – able to turn on them at a moment’s notice. BLACKFISH unravels the complexities of this dichotomy, employing the story of notorious performing whale Tilikum, who – unlike any orca in the wild – has taken the lives of several people while in captivity. So what went wrong?

Shocking footage and riveting interviews with trainers and experts manifest the orca’s extraordinary nature, the species’ cruel treatment in captivity over the last four decades and the growing disillusionment of workers who were misled and endangered by the highly profitable sea-park industry. This emotionally wrenching, tautly structured story challenges us to consider our relationship to nature and reveals how little we humans truly know about these highly intelligent, and surprisingly sentient, fellow mammals that we only think we can control.

When you look into their eyes, somebody’s home. Somebody’s looking back at you… but it may not be what you think.

I encourage you guys to check it out to learn what goes into keep an animal as large and as intelligent in captivity. I’ve discussed cetaceans in captivity before on my blog, especially countries banning it and the argument of SeaWorld holding several belugas in tubs for several years while fighting to get them approved to bring into the parks.


While I personally am not a fan of any large animal with the level of intelligence seen in cetaceans, elephants and great apes, and even having worked as an animal trainer in zoo’s, I would obviously rather see them in the wild than in cages, I do not want anyone to think that I believe SeaWorld is an “evil” corporation. I think that there is no need to be bringing in new cetaceans from the wild, especially in endangered populations, but I think that from what I’ve seen of the film so far (I have it DVRed and I’m about to turn it on) the way they talked about weight management and positive reinforcement was severely skewed. They make it sound like people starve animals (of food and attention) which is truly not the case. I’ll probably be doing a post explaining positive reinforcement after this film butchers the definition.

9 thoughts on “blackfish”

      1. I know my comment on the documentary is really late. I did watch it though. Twice just to be sure. I did my own research afterwards on the content and looked at interviews from the people involved. I really did enjoy the documentary because it showed how we viewed orcas from the first time people have “learned” about them to what we have compiled now. However it could be more accurate by matching the voice overs with the footage along with a few other things. Since SeaWorld refused to include their side, you can’t get both stories. Orcas obviously can’t be interviewed, but their input is included by the researchers and experienced people who work/ed with them. I do no support the captures of healthy wildlife to be placed in captivity, especially for entertainment purposes. I do understand that the way SeaWorld handled them was not appropriate, but I can understand that the care of these orcas and the animals in SeaWorld overall are cared for better than they were years ago. Especially with the release of this documentary. I love wildlife science and conservation, that is why I am working for a career in the field. In my opinion, any healthy animal already in captivity should be rehabilitated in hope to release them back into the wild. Each case should be reviewed carefully.To get to the point, I would recommend this documentary to people not only involved in wildlife, but the general public as well. It is very important that viewers also need to do their research in order to understand the situation and tactics on either side before you make accusations and act on either behalf.

      2. I forgot to include that I don’t support the breeding of animals in captivity (in this situation), especially with an animal that shows aggressive behavior like in the documentary.

      3. Thank you for your wonderful and thoughtful reply! I don’t support the keeping of cetaceans in captivity, but I think sea world does well with the situation. Not saying that they do it right but they do it the best out of people keeping cetaceans in captivity. I think that the documentaries view on training is terribly skewed and I don’t think an orca was ever “deprived of food or attention for not doing tricks” because that’s simply not how it works. I think that the least the documentary can do is open peoples eyes to the plight of whales and dolphins all around the world, for instance that Taiji bay is getting more press than it has in years as well as the dolphin culls of the coast of South America.

  1. This is definitely one of the best documentaries I’ve watched lately. It reshapes my views towards zoos and aquarium. Well, if they are really protecting some endanger species as they say, I have no will against it. But given the investigation in the film, it seems like they are lying, which is the part frustrate me. I didn’t realize captivity would cause the animals’ metal health. knowing that captivity has already been causing physical heath problems, this realization from this film just adds another counter argument to Sea World’s response.

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