Whales & Orcas

End All Whale Captivity, Breeding Whales in Captivity & Illegal Whale Hunting!

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Whales & Orcas in Captivity performing for Humans.

Key notes:
 The information presented in this table was revised in April 2020. Some data displayed previously may have been changed in light of more accurate information.
 This data was compiled from multiple sources including the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), Marine Mammal Inventory Reports (MMIRs), marine mammal publicationswebsitesbooks, newspaper and news archives, government oversight agencies and marine mammal park documents. Simply click on the hyperlinks to reveal the source.
 Emma Luck (@FlukePrintPhotography IG) provided a vast array of knowledge to help determine which wild caught orca belonged to which wild population and/or ecotype.
Whales captured in Icelandic waters have been listed as “North Atlantic Type 1” as they closely resemble this ecotype in terms of morphology and ecology – they’re smaller than Type 2s and feed primarily on fish (especially herring) but will also eat the occasional seal. In contrast, Type 2s are massive with noticeably downward-sloping eyepatches, and they’re strict mammal-eaters. However, it’s important to note North Atlantic killer whales are not as well studied as those in the North Eastern Pacific. It’s possible there is more variation and diversity than just two ecotypes (Type 1 and Type 2). It’s also possible that there’s greater diversity in Argentina but not all populations have been adequately studied. Those that have are believed to mammal-eaters so this general information has been applied to all orcas captured in the country.  
 Estimated age at capture for whales under nine years old was calculated using “Killer whale growth rate defined by Duffield and Miller” (see below).
 “Killer whale status and live-captures in the waters of the Russian Far East” by O. A. Filatova, O. V. Shpak, T.V. Ivkovich, E. A. Borisova, A. M. Burdin and E. Hoyt was used to gather information on the Russian captures in 2012 and 2013.
 Information regarding the remaining Russian captures was largely sourced from Russian Orcas (Facebook)
 Some other notable sources include “Orca – The Whale Called Killer” by Erich Hoyt, “Keto & Tilikum Express the Stress of Orca Captivity” by John S. Jett and Jeffrey M. Ventre, The Orca Project and Cetacean Cousins.

Killer whale growth rate defined by Duffield and Miller

Length in cm        Est. age in years
< 291                                < 1
291 – 328                          1
329 – 366                          2
367 – 404                          3
405 – 442                          4
443 – 480                          5
481 – 518                          6
519 – 552                          7
553 – 590                          8
591 – 628                          9

Duffield, D.A. and K.W. Miller, 1988. Demographic Features of Killer Whales in Oceanaria in the United States and Canada, 1965-1987. Rit Fiskideildar. 11: 297-306.

In Pacific whales, growth is approximately linear, at a mean rate of 38 cm/yr up to 10-12 or 12-16 years of age, for females and males, respectively. 

Japan’s defiance of the global 1986 ban on commercial whaling since 1987 in the Southern Ocean under a guise of “scientific research” has drawn widespread condemnation. In 2008, Australia’s Federal Court deemed Japan’s whaling illegal, but the Australian Government failed to prosecute the Japanese fleet’s actions that year. In 2014, however, the Governments of Australia and New Zealand took the Japanese Government to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Netherlands, where the court declared Japan’s Southern Ocean whale hunting activities illegal. Despite this, the Japanese Government continues to send their whaling fleet to the Southern Ocean each summer, targeting 333 Minke whales each year. This cruel disregard for global marine wildlife conservation and international law in the name of “scientific research” continues to be a source of contention and outrage.

Iceland suspends annual whale hunt in move that likely spells end to controversial practice

Decision comes after a government report found the hunt does not comply with Iceland’s Animal Welfare Act.

Iceland’s government has said it is suspending this year’s whale hunt until the end of August due to animal welfare concerns, a move that is likely to bring the controversial practice to an end.

Animal rights groups and environmentalists hailed the decision, with the Humane Society International calling it “a major milestone in compassionate whale conservation”.

“I have taken the decision to suspend whaling” until 31 August, food minister Svandis Svavarsdottir said in a statement, after a government-commissioned report concluded the hunt does not comply with Iceland’s Animal Welfare Act.

Recent monitoring by Iceland’s Food and Veterinary Authority on the fin whale hunt found that the killing of the animals took too long based on the main objectives of the Animal Welfare Act.

Shocking video clips broadcast by the veterinary authority showed a whale’s agony as it was hunted for five hours.

“If the government and licensees cannot guarantee welfare requirements, these activities do not have a future,” the minister said.

The country has only one remaining whaling company, Hvalur, and its licence to hunt fin whales expires in 2023. Another company stopped for good in 2020, saying it was no longer profitable.

Iceland’s whaling season runs from mid-June to mid-September, and it is doubtful Hvalur would head out to sea that late in the season.

Annual quotas authorise the killing of 209 fin whales – the second-longest marine mammal after the blue whale – and 217 minke whales, one of the smallest species. But catches have fallen drastically in recent years due to a dwindling market for whale meat.

Iceland, Norway and Japan are the only countries in the world that have continued whale hunting in the face of fierce criticism from environmentalists and animal rights’ defenders.

“There is no humane way to kill a whale at sea, and so we urge the minister to make this a permanent ban,” the Humane Society International’s executive director for Europe, Ruud Tombrock, said.

“Whales already face so many serious threats in the oceans from pollution, climate change, entanglement in fish nets and ship strikes, that ending cruel commercial whaling is the only ethical conclusion.”

Robert Read, head of Sea Shepherd UK, said the decision was also “a huge blow” to other whaling nations.

“If whaling can’t be done humanely here … it can’t be done humanely anywhere.”

“Whales are architects for the ocean. They help boost biodiversity, they help fight climate change by affecting the carbon cycling process,” he added.

Opposition to whaling has been on the rise in Iceland with a majority now in favour of dropping the practice.

A survey published in early June indicated that 51% of Icelanders were opposed to the hunt and 29% in favour, with over-60s those most in favour.

Iceland has depended heavily on fishing and whaling for centuries.

But in the past two decades its tourism industry, including whale watching tours, has blossomed – and the two key sectors of the economy have diverging interests.

Japan, by far the biggest market for whale meat, resumed commercial whaling in 2019 after a three-decade hiatus, drastically reducing the need for imports from Iceland.

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SeaWorld confines whales and dolphins to small concrete tanks at marine abusement parks across the country, where they slowly go insane from stress and frustration. To create generations of animals the company can exploit for profit, staff sexually abuse and impregnate dolphins and whales, sometimes after drugging them. Often housed with incompatible tankmates, orcas and other animals are regularly drugged in order to manage stress-induced aggressive behavior and relieve the endless monotony of swimming in circles. They break their teeth chewing on the metal bars and concrete sides of their tanks, and they’re coerced into performing tricks for tourists in exchange for food—all in the name of entertainment. It’s a business built on the suffering of intelligent, social animals who are denied everything that’s natural and important to them.

SeaWorld—which confines all but one of the captive orcas in the U.S.—has a long history of exploiting animals. In nature, orcas work cooperatively in search of food and share complex relationships in a matrilineal society. They have group-specific food preferences, behavior, and unique dialects, which are considered a form of culture that’s unrivaled by any species other than humans. Free orcas are also among the fastest animals in the sea—they can swim as far as 140 miles in a day and dive deep. But at SeaWorld, orcas who’ve been torn away from their families have nothing to do but swim in endless circles inside barren tanks.

How Deep Can Orcas Dive

More than 40 orcas have died at SeaWorld—many far short of their natural life expectancy—from causes such as bacterial infections and fractured skulls. More than 500 other dolphins and whales, approximately 400 pinnipeds, and countless other animals have also died at the parks. In nature, dolphins maintain dynamic relationships within a large social network, living with up to 1,000 others in a pod, and choose their own mates. But at SeaWorld, they’re often housed in incompatible groups where they can’t escape attacks from frustrated, aggressive dolphins.

Bottlenose dolphins are used as breeding machines to create generation after generation of animals imprisoned for life. Male dolphins are masturbated, and females are torn out of the water and sometimes drugged so they can’t fight back while staff shove tubes filled with semen into their uteruses. Some have been repeatedly impregnated, only to lose their babies. And while bottlenose dolphins can swim up to 60 miles each day and dive to depths of nearly 1,500 feet, at SeaWorld, 140 of them are crammed into just seven chemically treated concrete tanks that, to them, are the equivalent of bathtubs.

What PETA Is Doing to Save the Whales and Other Animals at SeaWorld

To help whales, dolphins, and other animals trapped at SeaWorld, PETA uses a variety of tactics, including billboards, demonstrations, complaints to law-enforcement officials, corporate negotiations, shareholder activism, litigation, and celebrity engagement.

During Orlando’s reopening on Thursday, June 11, a crying “dolphin” reminded passersby that SeaWorld breeds for greed and the easiest way to show support for animals is to boycott all marine parks.

In 2013, the documentary Blackfish was released to critical acclaim and became an instant phenomenon, causing stars such as Willie Nelson and Martina McBride to cancel concerts at SeaWorld, schools to cancel field trips there, and park attendance to drop. The film exposed the company’s horrific capture of young orcas in the ocean, the misery of their lifetime confinement, and how this cruelty led the frustrated orca Tilikum—who died after 33 years in a concrete prison—to kill three humans, even though orcas in nature have never hurt a human.

Since Blackfish, four of SeaWorld’s CEOs have resigned and more than 1,200 of its employees have been laid off. Dozens of its corporate partners—including Snickers, TripAdvisor, Airbnb, Booking.com, Alaska Airlines, JetBlue, Mattel, Southwest Airlines, STA Travel, and Taco Bell—have severed ties with the company.

The corporation has faced more than half a dozen lawsuits from shareholders, including a securities class-action lawsuit alleging that it misled investors about the impact of Blackfish and the unethical treatment of the orcas at its parks. The company and its former CEO paid $5 million to settle fraud charges brought by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for misleading investors regarding the documentary’s effect on the company. Internal e-mails show that executives were sharing a confidential spreadsheet titled “Lost Blackfish Revenue” nearly eight months before they finally admitted to investors that the documentary was having an impact.

In 2016, faced with plunging stock prices and impending state and federal legislation to ban orca breeding, SeaWorld was forced to end its own sordid orca-breeding program—a practice that has since been made illegal in California—because, according to its now-former CEO:

“[T]he data and trends showed it was either a SeaWorld without whales or a world without SeaWorld.”

SeaWorld knows that its remaining customers come for the new rides, concerts, and other forms of amusement that don’t harm animals. In February 2020—after a months-long PETA campaign—SeaWorld was forced to stop allowing trainers to stand on dolphins’ faces and ride on their backs in cruel circus-style shows.

peta campaign to save the whales and dolphins at SeaWorld

© dreamstime.com/Paul Brewster

SeaWorld finally listened to PETA and will stop using dolphins as surfboards. Trainers will no longer stand on dolphins’ faces or surf on them in circus-style shows.

SeaWorld claims that it’s committed to “protecting and conserving animals worldwide,” but in 2018, its publicly funded conservation fund only spent the equivalent of about 2.2% of the company’s profits. True conservation is about helping animals in their own environment, not imprisoning them for entertainment.

PETA is urging SeaWorld to modernize its business by ending its sordid dolphin- and whale-breeding programs and relocating the animals to seaside sanctuaries, where they can thrive in the enrichment and diversity of the sea while still receiving care, food, and veterinary support.

SeaWorld teaches the public the wrong lesson: that animals are ours to do with as we please, which perpetuates speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview.