Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Sea World Covers Up Dangers of Whale-Trainer Interaction

Sea World reportedly quashed a 2007 report from OSHA which warned of additional killer whale attacks at the park. What's that? You didn't realize a company could say "Thanks but no thanks" to a government issued workplace safety report? Me neither. But apparently "SeaWorld successfully argued that Cal/OSHA was not qualified to draw conclusions about marine mammals and the report was killed[...]" In other words, OSHA might know about workplace safety but they couldn't possibly know about safety in our workplace - we're speshul.

This isn't the first time Sea World protected its corporate interests by hiding information on the dangers of riding around on captive killer whales for shows. In 1987, a trainer was seriously injured by a killer whale at Sea World and he filed a lawsuit:
Video footage showed Orky the killer whale slamming down John Allen Sillick, breaking his bones and crushing his insides.
The accident sparked a lawsuit, but it was not what 10News found in the lawsuit that was intriguing but what was missing. The lawyers for a previous owner of SeaWorld, Harcourt and Brace, had cleared the courtroom during any discussions of Orky’s health, medications, and physical limitations. Then, they managed to convince the judge to seal those parts of the records from public view, forever. . “I have no idea why that case was sealed or who requested it. I can’t comment on it,” said Brad Andrews, Vice President of Zoological Operations with Busch Entertainment.
The judge’s remarks were not sealed and provided tantalizing clues.
They revealed 20-year-old Orky was not a healthy whale. He was partially blind and had “visual limitations not told (to trainer).” Additionally, the whale had limited ability to jump.
A year after he crushed Sillick, Orky died from “acute pneumonia, chronic wasting."
Sea World stated (pdf), and I'm paraphrasing, that the park's owners had wanted the veterinary info sealed because it contained trade secrets and the public was too dumb to understand it anyway. That may be true but I think it's fairly self-explanatory that the whale involved was dead a year later due to a chronic condition.

If interested, read the pdf linked above for more fascinating Sea World spin. It's a Q and A between Sea World and Channel 10 News in San Diego. There's so much bobbing and weaving going on, you're left feeling like you just went a couple rounds with Muhammad Ali.


Retrieverman said...

Does this surprise me?

Not in the least.

Parks like SeaWorld would a lot of good if they focused on marine mammal rehabilitation. They do wonderful things for manatees.

But keeping trick whales and dolphins, that's something else entirely.

ross1776 said...

Did you get this from my story on Ground Report published yesterday?


ross1776 said...

It's also on my blog, also published yesteday:


Pai said...

I'm not sure why they are in denial about wild animal trainers being in a risky job. It's a no-brainer, and wild whales are no different than wild tigers, elephants or chimps. Or do they really think that their whales are 'tame'?

YesBiscuit! said...

Ross1776 - I learned about the 2007 OSHA report on CNN (my first link is to Randi Kaye's report there). Since CNN only posted a video (no text that I could find on their site), I Googled for more info and came across the San Diego news station's report.

Susan said...

The current tragedy aside, I have to say I don't read that interview the same way. The questions WERE of questionable relevance, especially about events of forty years ago. Most of the people running Sea World today probably weren't even alive then. Then there's a bunch of loaded "when-did-you-stop-beating-your-wife" questions. I'm all for tough interviews, but if you watch Rachel Maddow, she can cite you volume, page and line for every fact she states. Here, it frankly sounds like the reporter is out to tar them with whatever will stick and that leaves me wondering how much to believe.