SeaWorld is calling Blackfish, a documentary about the 2010 death of a whale trainer, inaccurate and misleading. The documentary explores the death of trainer Dawn Brancheau, who was killed by Tilikum, an orca whale, in 2010.
The Orlando, Florida marine park has taken exception to the documentary, which it believes exploits the tragedy of Brancheau’s death.
ABC News reports that SeaWorld released a statement to them, saying:
“Instead of a fair and balanced treatment of a complex subject, the film is inaccurate and misleading and, regrettably, exploits a tragedy that remains a source of deep pain for Dawn Brancheau’s family, friends and colleagues.”
The Blackfish documentary’s main focus is answering the questions that have remained since Tilikum pulled Brancheau into the water with him after a performance on February 24, 2010. It was the third human death related to the 22-foot, 12,000 pound orca whale.
The film, directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite, asserts that the three deaths could have been prevented if SeaWorld and other marine parks never kept the whales in captivity. The film maintains that doing so could cause them to behave in extreme ways, according to Rolling Stone.
The statement by SeaWorld about the Blackfish documentary added that the film “fails to mention SeaWorld’s commitment to the safety of its own team members and guests.” The park asserted that it has continued to improve its facilities, equipment, and procedures before and after Brancheau’s death.
Cowperthwaite released a response to SeaWorld’s comments regarding Blackfish. She stated,
“I think SeaWorld is just looking to sow a seed of doubt because they have to. There were so many things I didn’t include because they took us away from Tilikum, but they were very disturbing and could have easily loaded the film and turned it into a piece of activism — which was never my intent.”
Cowperthwaite’s documentary notes that there have been four deaths involving killer whales in captivity. Tilikum has been associated with three of them. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) took action following Brancheau’s death, ordering SeaWorld to keep trainers behind barriers.
As a result, the marine park no longer offers shows that feature dramatic acrobatic work and intimacy between trainers and whales that thrilled audiences. SeaWorld is appealing the ruling and has said that OSHA has a “fundamental misunderstanding of how to properly and safely care for and work around these animals.”
Do you plan on seeing the documentary Blackfish about Tilikum and orca whales’ captivity?
[Image by Milan Boers via Wikimedia Commons]