The U.S. Court of Appeals has denied an appeal by SeaWorld of safety citations issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, according to a report from CNN.
In 2010, the 12,000-pound killer whale, Tilikum, who was the subject of the 2013 documentary, Blackfish, killed trainer Dawn Brancheau at the SeaWorld flagship park in Orlando, Florida. OSHA then cited SeaWorld and put limits on how whale shows are performed, which includes having physical barriers or keeping a sufficient distance from the whale.
SeaWorld tried to appeal the citation, but the judges ruled 2-1 against it. The company said in a statement that it was “obviously disappointed” by the decision, but it is not sure whether it will take the appeal to the Supreme Court.
However, human interactions and whale performances will still go on with limitations. Judge Judith W. Rogers wrote in her 23-page ruling that even though the appeal was upheld, the “essential nature” of SeaWorld’s business will not change, according to a report from the Orlando Sentinel.
“There will still be human interactions and performances with killer whales; the remedy will simply require that they continue with increased safety measures,” the statement read.
Since the tragedy, SeaWorld has halted all in-water performances for its killer whale shows. The company does hope to bring those performances back soon.
One argument claimed that not allowing SeaWorld trainers to go in the water was the same as the NFL banning tackles or NASCAR having a speed limit for its races. The court followed up by saying that its ruling in upholding the appeal was “unique” to SeaWorld and the incident, and does not suggest imposing regulations on other sport or entertainment businesses.
“We note, however, that had Congress intended all unsafe and unhealthy performances in the entertainment industry to be beyond the scope of employee protection, it could have included such as an exemption in the Occupational Safety and Health Act, and it did not,” Rogers wrote.
In a statement, a spokesman for OSHA said it was “pleased” with the decision by the court to uphold the SeaWorld appeal.
“The Labor Department is pleased that the courts have consistently upheld our position that killer whales pose a danger to employees who are not adequately protected, and further upheld the rights of workers in this country to return home safe and healthy each day,” he said.
A related report from The Inquisitr stated that SeaWorld called Blackfish “misleading” and that it “exploits a tragedy.” SeaWorld issued a statement saying that the documentary “fails to mention SeaWorld’s commitment to the safety of its own team members and guests.”