Click on Learn About Orca to take you to a well sourced page that shows life and captivity of Orca around the world.
This page talks about Orcas and Beluga Whales as well as a few other species that are taken from the Oceans to live their lives in a captive facility for profit. We also ask some serious questions about who is watching and caring for these wild animals. They belong to no-one but the oceans. Please share this information, so we can educate all those who continue to support captivity. If you are one who still goes to the Marine Parks and Aquariums you are contributing to the deaths of so many innocent cetaceans, you just have no idea.
History - Why is Russia Capturing and Selling to Marine Parks?
Russian Law states they are permitted to take cetaceans for Research and Release purposes ONLY. Yet these captives are being shipped to theme parks all over the world!
"According to some sources, these captures, which are shrouded in secrecy, are also taking place illegally because the Russian Federal Fisheries has not yet adopted a quota for wild capture. Since permits cannot be issued without a quota, any captures in the meantime would be unlawful." says Erich Hoyt, with the Far East Russia Orca Project.
Georgia Aquarium: In 2015, the aquarium applied to import 18 Belugas from Russia; it had previously placed an order for their capture and planned to send them on breeding loans to partnered parks such as Shedd Aquarium and SeaWorld, though SeaWorld ultimately opted out of the agreement. However, the permit was denied by the National Marine Fisheries Service, prompting Georgia Aquarium to sue. In September 2015, a federal district court ruled that "Georgia Aquarium failed to demonstrate that its permit would not result in the taking of additional animals beyond those authorized by the permit", and that the denial would stand.
It has been illegal to capture cetaceans in the US for many years, yet the Georgia Aquarium commissioned Beluga Whales from Russia to be captured. Most of those whales wound up in China and some went to Japan after they were denied bringing them to the US. They have also commissioned Whale Sharks from Taiwan and have received them. 2 of them died just months after arriving at the Aquarium.
(All three species—whale, basking, and great white sharks—are protected under CITES Appendix II, meaning that although they are not currently threatened with extinction, "they may become so unless trade is closely controlled," according to the CITES web site.)
How can the Georgia Aquarium commission capturing Beluga Whales from the wild without the proper permits and not be held accountable in any way?
How can they commission protected marine species like these 3 Whale Sharks to be captured, when it is against the law to capture endangered species?
The US has deemed animal abuse a felony in 50 states, yet we are still allowing places like this to hold animals that swim hundreds of miles in the open ocean to live their lives out in captivity. With drone technology, true behavior and family bonds can be studied in the wild where they belong. They will never be themselves in a captive situation. They spend most of their time worrying about being fed, as food deprivation is used to get the animals to perform optimally. They come from different pods that speak different languages, yet they are forced to live in chlorinated pools together, endure blaring music and perform for profit, the Marine Park's Profit. This does not benefit the animals in any way. In fact it hurts them physically and mentally.
The first live killer whale captured in Russia was an 18-foot (5.5 m)-long female estimated to be about six years old, captured off the Pacific coast of the Kamchatka district on September 26, 2003. She was transferred over 7,000 miles (11,000 km) to a facility owned by the Utrish Dolphinarium on the Black Sea, where she died in October 2003 after less than a month in captivity.
How many Orcas' have been captured in Russia since 2012 and where are they now?
Narnia, Nord & Juliet are at the Moskavarium in Russia
Malvina is at TINRO
9 are at Chimelong Ocean Kingdom - 2 in 2013, 5 more in 2014 and 2 in 2015.
1 is unaccounted for.
Recent talks and negotiations are in the works with Russian President Putin as well as China's President and the Japanese Prime Minister to further build the captive industry. Experts in Chinese Tourism state that China wants to have as many as 50 Captive Orca's in their Chinese Parks & Aquariums by 2025.
On September 3, 2016 Russian President Vladimir Putin unveiled the Primorsky Aquarium during the Eastern Economic Forum in Russki Island, together with South Korea President Park Geun-hye and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Watch the video.
Orca & Beluga Facts ~
Orca and belugas roam and dive hundreds of miles a day and depend on their intricate family and social structures for survival. Keeping them in captivity interferes with both of these natural life structures.
World renowned scientists have spent decades researching these animals in captivity and in the wild. Over and over their findings conclude that these animals do not fare well in captivity or when they are taken from their wild habitat.
The far east Russian populations of orcas are virtually unstudied. Individual numbers are unknown. There is no way of knowing if these captures are sustainable.
We are aware that you have been capturing Orca's and sending them to different captive facilities. You must know Orca adult females give birth to a single baby (only once were twins recorded) about every 3-10 years. They start breeding at about 14-15 years of age. In captivity they are often made to breed much younger, which goes directly against their wild, natural habits. There are no current accurate wild population counts.
Beluga whales only give birth to a single calf once every 3 years on average. The average gestation period (the period between conception and birth) for Beluga whales lasts between 12-15 months.
There are no laws or welfare acts in place in Russia to govern the captures or the living conditions or transports of cetaceans after capture. Cetaceans are drowning or otherwise being killed during capture due to negligence on the part of the hunters. Adding to the unknown sustainability factor.
From a conservation standpoint, these captures are detrimental to the wild populations of Orcas and Belugas. In turn, the destruction of these wild populations of cetaceans will be detrimental to the entire ecosystem they inhabit.
From an animal welfare standpoint, the nature of capture is inhumane. The brutality and negligence of the hunters and the companies and research facilities that hire them to capture is irresponsible and unnecessary cruelty. Studies have proven that captures are detrimental to the emotional, physical and psychological well being of cetaceans.
Update on Process ~
Russian Ministry of Culture will support a ban of keeping animals in mobile zoos, dolphinariums and aquariums.
Department of Cultural Heritage has reviewed the appeal, addressed to the Minister of Culture of Russian Federation, which expressed concerns related with the activities of mobile and stationary dolphinariums.
Keeping animals in captivity is regulated by the federal law, which has no specific actions for the avoidance or suppression of cruelty to animals, there is a very vague wording on the responsibility of individuals and legal entities in respect of use of animals. Russian Ministry of Culture sent its proposals to amend the legislation.
It should be noted that the organization of leisure in the Russian zoos - is just one aspect of their work, and not the most important one. According to the Russian and international law, their mission is still the scientific and educational work, conservation and breeding of rare species, conducting research activities.
In late July, The First Congress of All-Russian Zoo’s Directors was held in Moscow, which led to the creation of the Russian Union of Zoos. One of it’s main objectives is the development of the “Law of Zoos“. It is planned to regulate the professional activities of zoos and dolphinariums and set the unified standards of keeping animals in captivity. Meanwhile, the project of the federal law "On the Treatment of Animals” has been prepared for its consideration by the State Duma in the autumn of 2016.
Few visitors to dolphinariums (aquariums, theme parks, or tourist attractions with dolphins or other cetaceans used in shows or swim-with encounters) pause to consider where the animals came from. Those who do may believe they are rescued animals, or born in captivity. Though occasionally true, most often this is not the case. Captive breeding of cetaceans is difficult, and most whales and dolphins currently in captivity around the world were deliberately captured—not rescued—from the wild. Even for bottlenose dolphins, orcas and beluga whales—the three species for which there has been some breeding success—self-sustaining breeding populations do not exist, and "new blood" is needed from the wild to supplement gene pools.
Dolphins and other small whales are still captured from the wild for confinement in dolphinariums—despite what the dolphinariums say, this practice is not a thing of the past. Captures are inhumane and often very violent, with animals routinely injured and killed in the struggle to subdue and separate an animal from his or her family unit. Fear, panic and flight are natural responses by any animal being hunted, chased, trapped and roughly handled. The mortality risk for bottlenose dolphins increases six-fold immediately after a capture.
There are several different techniques for capturing cetaceans, depending on the species and the depth of the water. The most popular capture method is by seine net—a large fish net that is positioned vertically in the water column with weights at the bottom and floats at the top. The seine is used in conjunction with a high speed boat or boats to chase a pod of animals into shallow waters and encircle them with the net. The net is then closed around the animals and pulled very tightly at the bottom, trapping the animals in a “purse.” The animals thrash around and may become entangled or drown. They are then manhandled into slings and hauled on board a capture vessel or herded into shallow sea cages.
Hoop nets are also used to capture dolphins who bow-ride or swim close to boats. A hand-held hoop attached to a breakaway net is lowered over the head and entangles the animal when he or she moves away. The dolphin is then hoisted into the boat.
Probably the most brutal capture method is the drive hunt, whereby pods of animals, once spotted, are chased and driven towards shore using boats and noise. Bays with narrow necks are typically chosen so that once close to shore, a net can be extended across the mouth, cutting off escape. Once confined, the exhausted animals are scrutinized for suitability for captivity while the rest are either butchered for meat and other products, or occasionally freed to an unknown fate.
Holding and Transport
Once captured, animals are held until they can be transported to a final destination. Holding conditions can be very crude and may consist of only a wet sling in a boat, or a small sea pen or makeshift tank lined with plastic and lacking a proper filtration system.
Small motor boats are usually used to move animals from the ocean to the shore. For short distances, animals are transported by trucks in wet slings. For longer distances, animals are kept in slings and crated and moved by air. The physiological effects of confining and moving ocean dwelling animals great distances via ground transport or pressurized airplanes are largely unknown, but the stressful impacts are being documented by a growing number of studies.
Times are Changing
Live cetacean captures still take place, especially as demand for dolphinariums increases in countries with developing economies such as China. However there is a growing awareness that capturing and keeping cetaceans in captivity is inhumane. Many countries have banned live captures in their waters, as well as imports, exports and/or captivity altogether.
In 2005 Chile banned outright the captive display of most marine mammal species, and also their import, export, and capture from the wild. The same year, Costa Rica prohibited the capture and captive display of all cetaceans. Cyprus, Hungary and Switzerland have banned live imports and in 2013 India banned the display of captive dolphins. Argentina has banned imports from the Russian Federation (notorious for beluga whale and orca captures). Vietnam and Malaysia have banned exports, with the latter also banning imports of all marine mammal species already found in Malaysia. Mexico has prohibited the capture, import and export of all cetaceans. (Capture and Transport Methods info. provided by the Animal Welfare Institute)
The Destruction of Generations
During the 1960s and early 1970s, nearly 70 killer whales were taken from Pacific waters for exhibition. The Southern Resident community of the Northeast Pacific lost 48 of its members to captivity. By 1976, only 80 killer whales were left in the community, which remains endangered. With subsequent captures, the theme parks learned more about avoiding injury during capture and subsequent care of killer whales, and discovered that they could be trained to perform tricks, making them a great attraction to visitors. As commercial demand increased, growing numbers of Pacific orcas were captured, peaking in 1970.
A turning point came with a mass capture of orcas from the L-25 pod in August 1970 at Penn Cove, Puget Sound off the coast of Washington. The Penn Cove capture became controversial due to the large number of wild killer whales that were taken (seven) and the number of deaths that resulted: four juveniles died, as well as one adult female who drowned when she became tangled in a net while attempting to reach her calf. In his interview for the CNN documentary Blackfish, former diver John Crowe told how all five of the whales had their abdomen slit open and filled with rocks, their tails weighted down with anchors and chains, in an attempt to conceal the deaths. The facts surrounding their deaths were discovered three months later after three of the dead whales washed ashore on Whidbey Island.
Public concern about the welfare of the animals and the impact of captures on the wild pods led to the Marine Mammal Protection Act being passed in 1972 by the US Congress, protecting orcas from being harassed or killed, and requiring special permits for capture. Since then, few wild orcas have been captured in Northeastern Pacific waters.
Lolita, originally known as Tokitae, is a survivor of the Penn Cove captures. She was about six years old at time of capture and is now the oldest captive killer whale. Lolita is the subject of the documentary Lolita: Slave to Entertainment, released in 2008. Various groups still argue that Lolita should be released into the wild. (We agree.)
(Click on the poster to enlarge.)
When the US Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 effectively stopped the capture of Pacific Orcas, exhibitors found an area more tolerant of killer whale captures in Iceland. Icelandic herring fishermen had traditionally seen killer whales as competitors for their catch, and sale of live killer whales promised a large new source of income. 48 live killer whales captured in Icelandic waters were exported to marine parks between 1976 and 1988. The capture process was based on luring the Orcas by dumping leftovers from herring fishing in front of the pod, capturing the killer whales in a purse seine net, selecting desirable animals and hauling them on board in a specially designed frame, then placing them in foam-lined boxes full of seawater. However, restrictions on US killer whale import permits and advances in captive breeding programs meant that the market never became as large as expected. Growing concern from conservationists and animal rights activists has caused the Icelandic government to limit the number of orcas that may be captured each year.
Perhaps the best known of the Icelandic captives is Keiko, caught in 1979 and sold to the Icelandic aquarium in Hafnarfjörður. Three years later, he was sold to Marineland Canada, where he first started performing for the public and developed skin lesions indicative of poor health. He was then sold to Reino Aventura (now named Six Flags Mexico), an amusement park in Mexico City, in 1985. He was the star of the 1993 movie Free Willy, the publicity from which led to an effort by Warner Brothers Studio to find him a better home. Using donations from the studio, Craig McCaw the Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport, Oregon spent over $7 million to construct facilities to return him to health with the hope of returning him to the wild. He was airlifted to his new home in January 1996, where he soon regained weight. In September 1998, he was flown to Klettsvik Bay in Vestmannaeyjar in Iceland, and gradually reintroduced to the wild, returning to the open sea in July 2002. Keiko died from pneumonia in December 2003. He had become lethargic and had a loss of appetite. He beached himself in the morning and died aged 27 years.
North Western Pacific Captures
1,477 killer whales were hunted in Japanese waters between 1948 and 1972, 545 of them around Hokkaido. Killer whale encounters in Japanese waters are now rare. In 1997 a group of ten killer whales was corralled by Japanese fisherman banging on iron rods and using water bombs to disorient the animals and force them into a bay near Taiji, Wakayama. They were held in the bay for two days before being auctioned to Japanese marine parks. Five animals were released, and the other five transported via road or sea to the aquariums. All five are dead. They continue to do this.
Nami - An Orca captured in Taiji, Japan in 2011!
As mentioned above this is one of the ones who didn't survive. Her story ~ On January 14, 2011, Nami, a 5,900 lb, 28-year-old captive killer whale died just shy of 7 months after being transferred from her home of almost 25 years. Nami was transferred from a man-made, natural sea pen in a cove in Taiji, Japan to an artificial concrete tank at Port of Nagoya public aquarium in Japan.
Nami is classified as a transient orca. Captivity for a transient orca is much different from the more popular resident orcas. Transient orcas are less predictable, harder to observe in the wild and are more evasive of humans. Transients are the mammal eating orcas unlike their fish-eating cousins, resident orcas. instinctively, transient’s hunting skills are far superior to resident orcas. Transients kill and feed on great white sharks, larger whales, dolphins and seals. Transients generally live alone or in very small pods, unlike their resident cousins who may live in pods of up to 50 to 100 members. Many of the transient orcas generally only come together to mate or to hunt. Nami had what was classified in captivity to have “aggression tendencies” when in actuality, Nami was only displaying her natural instinctive behaviors as a transient orca.
Nami would never be in captivity what her counter part resident cousins would be.
In 1985, Nami was captured in Japanese waters and sent to live in a seapen at the Taiji Whale Museum. The majority of her life was spent alone. She lived briefly with 2 other orcas as they awaited their transfers to other parks. Nami’s third companion, Ku, lived at the Taiji Whale Museum for 6 1/2 years, yet they had to be separated by a net due to Nami’s aggression towards Ku. Rumors have stated Nami killed a dolphin. In the wild dolphins would be a source of food for Nami.
In captivity, Nami was denied her natural-born rights to hunt, to be secluded if she felt the need, to roam and play in the great vast open ocean which was once her home. Life for Nami, as a transient orca, drastically changed once placed in captivity.
The Taiji Whale Museum over saw Nami’s care for almost 25 years. Nami thrived and continued to live in captivity under the care of the Taiji Whale Museum. Nami was on public display in a cove near the Taiji Whale Museum where she would perform daily shows. Namis’ life was easy, laid back, fairly calm and consistent. Nami’s trainers never entered the water with her. (WOW doesn't believe any cetacean should be held captive and made to perform, it is cruel and unnatural.)
On June 19, 2010, Nami was moved to the Port of Nagoya public aquarium in Japan. Nami would soon be living with two other orcas from a different marine park in the near future for breeding. Nami had never even met the other orcas ever, yet was now going to be expected to breed with the male.
Life for Nami soon would become an experiment….she was placed in a concrete tank, forced to interact with dolphins, more demands were made of Nami and trainers would soon be pushing their way into Nami’s water world training her for water work shows. Nami would now be expected to perform up to 10 public training sessions daily. The trainers at the Port of Nagoya public aquarium expected more of Nami. Nami was exposed to not only one dolphin but eventually numerous other dolphins during her training sessions. In Nami’s home of 25 years in Taiji, she never was expected to come out of the water onto a slide out, she was not expected to perform shows with dolphins or do 10 public training sessions.
Nami in just 6 months after her move would become so sick it would lead to her death in January 2011. In December of 2010, it was announced by the Port of Nagoya Public Aquarium that Nami was sick and receiving treatment. It has been rumored that this would be the second time in the 6 months Nami was sick and received treatment. (Click here to read Nami's full story)
Species 5 year action plan by NOAA Here! Is it enough?
Killer whales are found in every ocean around the world, but the species is segmented into many small populations, at least two of which are likely separate species, that differ significantly genetically, and in appearance, behavior, social structure, feeding strategies and vocalizations. In the North Pacific there are three different ‘ecotypes’ of killer whales. The “Resident” killer whales are fish eaters found along the coasts. “Bigg’s” or “Transient” killer whales are marine mammal hunters and are also found all along the North American coast. The little known “Offshore” killer whales, which feed on schooling fishes and possibly sharks, are found mostly along the continental slope. In the eastern North Pacific there are three populations of resident killer whales: Alaska Residents, Northern Residents, and Southern Residents. Southern Residents, which comprise the smallest population, are found mostly off British Columbia, Washington and Oregon.
The Southern Resident killer whale population may have numbered more than 200 animals prior to the 20th century. However, with modern impacts on their prey base, opportunistic shooting prior to the 1960s, and the capture or killing of nearly 50 whales for marine parks and display in the 1960s and 1970s, the first complete count found just 70 whales remaining in 1974. With the cessation of capture and shootings the population slowly increased to a peak of 96-98 whales in the mid-1990s. However, in just five years from 1996 to 2001 the population declined to 81 whales, which led to its listing as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 2005.
Although it had appeared that Southern Resident killer whale numbers had stabilized after 2001 and may have increased somewhat, declines since 2004, early deaths, and no births for two years created new concerns for the population. Somewhat encouragingly, over the winters of 2014-2015 and 2015-2016, ten births occurred in the population, of which eight have survived through April 2016. Nonetheless, there were just 80 whales in the population in mid-2015, which was no better than the low in 2001 that led to its designation as endangered. By the end of 2015 the total had grown to 84. While the recent increase in births is very positive, almost all of the new whales for which gender has been determined are males. The skewed sex ratio in calves could be anomaly or perhaps an indication that pollutants are affecting the reproductive process in these killer whales. Either way, it will likely have a negative impact on the recovery of the population.
Scientists are uncertain about how many Southern Resident killer whales can be supported by the environment. Although the environment’s carrying capacity may have exceeded 200 whales before the 20th century, it may not be able to support that many Southern Resident killer whales now. Like the other fish-eating killer whale populations in the North Pacific, the Southern Residents are dietary specialists on fish, and particularly Chinook salmon. Recent scientific findings suggest that the reproductive and mortality rates of resident killer whales are related to the abundance of Chinook salmon, which has declined significantly from before the era of intense commercial fishing and wide-spread habitat destruction. Modeling studies suggest the modern carrying capacity is roughly 90 whales. (Source: mmc.gov)
Starving and Pregnant: A Look Into J32’s Tragic Death
J32, aka Rhapsody, Was Starving To Death ~
When biologists and scientists performed the necropsy, they discovered that the female orca had a thin layer of blubber that was also oil free. This means that she was experiencing a prolonged period of malnutrition. She and her unborn calf were starving.
Killer Whale Calfs Are Dying In The Wild
Adding to the tragedy of this whales untimely death is the fact that she was pregnant. In the past three years, the Southern Resident Killer Whale population has not seen a killer whale calf survive. Right now, there is a 100% mortality rate for killer whale calfs in the Pacific Northwest.
Killer Whale Prey Is Toxic And Disappearing (Source: Awesome Ocean)
According to the Army Core of Engineers and NOAA they don't have to lower the 4 Snake River Dams to save the SRKW's. They will continue to dismiss this unless we put pressure on them. Click here to read the article.
What can you do to help the SRKW's?
Please call the White House and respectfully leave a message for the President. Ask him to make an Executive Order to Breach the 4 Lower Snake River Dams, before it's too late.
Read here about J2 - Granny, the oldest Southern Resident Killer Whale in the World and her story. Believed to now be deceased. Rest in Peace dear Matriarch.
Dr Ingrid N. Visser – Founder & Principal Scientist
Born in New Zealand, Dr Visser remains the only researcher specializing in orca in New Zealand waters.
Her research officially began in 1992 when she embarked on her life-long dream to study the orca. Since then she has worked with orca not only around New Zealand, but also in the waters of Antarctica, Argentina and Papua New Guinea.
Whilst travelling aboard eco-tourism ships or on private expeditions, she has also contributed to orca research projects in the Kamchatka region of Russia; Washington, Alaska and British Colombia off North America as well as Iceland (where she worked with the team releasing “Keiko” the star of the Free Willy movies).
Her work has appeared in various magazines and on numerous documentaries made for TV. She has written two children’s books as well as an autobiography “Swimming with Orca” which was a finalist in the 2005 NZ Montana Book Awards. Since the tragic death of the trainer at SeaWorld in Florida, Ingrid has been actively speaking out for orca held in captivity. She is a co-founder of the Free Morgan Foundation, working to raise awareness of her plight as she is used commercially at the entertainment theme park Loro Parque, in Spain.
Dr Visser’s research does not receive Government or University funding, but is run through the non-profit, Orca Research Trust, a New Zealand registered Charity.
Dedicated to protecting the orca, Dr Visser believes in making science ‘consumable’ for the general public and as such she is often seen out in the community giving talks about these incredible apex predators.
The Orca Research Trust is run primarily by Dr Ingrid Visser. She occasionally receives assistance from the other crew members featured here (& don’t forget to check out the Orca Research Boat).
(Source: Orca Research Trust)
Read here about Sea Pens to Retire current captives!
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