There were loud, petulant hecklers. There were binders full of killer whale charts. There was an extended sidebar on orca feces. Basically all the ingredients for a solid night weighing SeaWorld’s footprint in San Diego, and its treatment of the whales that have catapulted from center stage at the park to the center stage of a tense political showdown.

On Thursday night, Voice of San Diego CEO Scott Lewis and I sat down with SeaWorld killer whale trainer Kristi Burtis and Todd Robeck, head of the company’s breeding program, plus Naomi Rose of the Animal Welfare Institute and professor Susan Gray Davis, who’s researched the park’s business model.

SeaWorld has mostly sidestepped big public discussions of the critical film “Blackfish” or its business practices so our event provided a rare chance to navigate the fallout from the movie and the big questions surrounding it. The audience – particularly those critical of SeaWorld – chimed in repeatedly throughout the event too, some outbursts more respectful than others.

Here were the most memorable moments from Thursday night. You can watch a full video of our discussion here and check out what we learned during our weeks-long quest on SeaWorld here.

Rose and Robeck’s debate over two of SeaWorld’s many props.

Photo by Sam Hodgson
Photo by Sam Hodgson
SeaWorld officials brought charts to make their case at Voice of San Diego's SeaWorld panel.

SeaWorld itself is a visual spectacle, so maybe we shouldn’t have been surprised when Robeck brought a thick binder on stage, and pulled out at least three oversized charts to display some of SeaWorld’s killer whale research.

He used two large charts to compare the life cycles of SeaWorld’s killer whales with that of those in the wild.


We Stand Up For You. Will You Stand Up For Us?

“Their longevity has been worse in the past, absolutely, but we have shown a steady increase in longevity of captive killer whales,” Robeck said. He said SeaWorld’s survival rates for its orcas now are at least as good as those in the wild.

Rose said the evolution reflected early deaths that never should have happened.

“This is an experiment and those are your experimental results and they are improving and that’s to be lauded but the fact is that that curve represents a lot of animals that have died that should not have died,” she said.

Robeck called Rose’s characterization “a little rough” and noted that survival rate improvements take years to manifest.

Killer whales live long lives in the wild, Rose replied, and if captive killer whales aren’t surviving at least as long or longer then orca captivity clearly hasn’t succeeded.

“This has been 50 years’ worth of work,” Rose said.

SeaWorld and its top critic actually agreed on something.

One of the most visible differences between killer whales in the wild and those in captivity are the collapsed dorsal fins that many orcas at SeaWorld have developed.

Early in the night, Rose claimed SeaWorld’s explanation of the condition is misleading.

Robeck and Rose spent plenty of time quibbling over the research, and how it’s been cited, but they agreed on one thing: The collapsed dorsal fin isn’t a health issue.  It’s a result of the differences between life in captivity and life in the wild.

“It has to do with the way adult males get huge dorsal fins and their lifestyle is really what we’re talking about,” Robeck said. “I mean, in zoos and aquariums their lifestyle is not the same that they’re going to have in the wild. There’s absolutely no way that you could replicate that.”

Things went to shit – literally.

Robeck repeatedly argued that SeaWorld’s killer whales provide invaluable data that researchers can use to help orcas in the wild.

Rose was among those who rallied behind a state Assembly bill that aimed to halt captive orca breeding and shows featuring orcas. (It’s since been tabled.)

“This population is one of the only populations that can provide information that can benefit the animals in the wild, and as Dr. Rose mentioned earlier, the wild is not pretty. It’s getting worse all the time,” he said. “What’s gonna happen if we need to answer questions that maybe we don’t even know right now?”

For instance, Robeck said, researchers are collecting orca feces and studying their hormone levels. “Wouldn’t it be great if you had an animal you could collect feces from and actually measure, and look repeatedly, at what’s going on from a serum, from a blood sample standpoint and correlate it with the feces?” he said. “What a great way to benefit wild animals.”

The anti-captivity activist addressed the benefits of captivity.

Photo by Sam Hodgson
Photo by Sam Hodgson

The SeaWorld panelists hailed the advantages of holding orcas in captivity, so I asked Rose if she saw any.

Turns out she does – sort of.

“Oh absolutely. Back in the ’60s the situation was pretty grim for these animals. They were being shot at by fishermen … They were believed to be, you know, sort of ruthless, mindless killers. There was a situation up where I did my dissertation work where they were gonna set up a machine gun and take ‘em out.”

(Yes, this actually was discussed in 1960 after some British Columbians decided orcas in the area were eating too much salmon.)

So captivity helped people see that killer whales were social, friendly creates, Rose said.

But she believes those benefits have faded.

“I don’t deny that there was a value initially but I think very rapidly the work in the wild caught up and we recognized things about their natural history and their culture and their physiology that by the ’90s led us to believe as biologists that there were costs, heavy costs welfare costs to having them in captivity and now 20 years from then a lot of my colleagues are realizing it’s time to stop this because, again, 50 years is plenty enough time to decide whether you can do this,” Rose said.

One of SeaWorld’s panelists responded to the hecklers.

Robeck teared up as he gave his closing remarks.

“We are truly the advocates of these animals. Everyone that works there is dedicated to them,” Robeck said, pausing as he choked up with emotion.

Some audience members accused Robeck of putting on a show. One called out, “Dr. Rose dedicates her life too!”

“Absolutely. Absolutely Dr. Rose does too,” Robeck responded. “She’s as passionate as I am. We just have a difference of opinion, OK? Everybody that works at SeaWorld is the advocate of an animal that is part of their family and these animals are doing well. And I can guarantee you, if they weren’t doing well, you would have a mass exodus of veterinarians, animal trainers, activists … they would be with Dr. Rose but they’re not.”

This event capped off our Quest: SeaWorld series digging into the park’s impact on our region. See what we learned during the quest in this handy overview.

    This article relates to: News, Quest: SeaWorld, SeaWorld, Share

    Written by Lisa Halverstadt

    Lisa writes about nonprofits and local progress in addressing causes like homelessness and Balboa Park’s needs. She welcomes story tips and questions. Contact her directly at lisa@vosd.org or 619.325.0528.

    58 comments
    shrkb8
    shrkb8 subscriber

    SeaWorld continues to stoop to new lows.  They bussed in employees to attend, cheer and jeer at the debate.  They did this also at a public hearing where NOAA was considering their application to import 18 beluga whales caught off of Russia.  


    And here is a recent comment by an orca researcher on SeaWorld "research":  A new investigation of these papers by Ingrid Visser, a marine biologist with New Zealand’s Orca Research Trust, shows that SeaWorld may have systematically misrepresented the research resulting from work with captive orcas. Visser’s investigation of the list, which is part of a larger analysis, stems from “a concern that SeaWorld often misrepresents their claims of science and the justification of keeping orca in captivity,” she told me, and as a scientist herself, she “wanted the public to have a better grasp of just how duplicitous SeaWorld was being about their ‘research.’”

    According to Visser, of the 52 articles on SeaWorld’s list, three are duplicates, the exact same paper listed twice. Another of the papers on the list is a review by a SeaWorld employee of a book written by someone who claimed to be able to communicate with orcas. Others involved SeaWorld staff, but the research was performed entirely on wild populations. A few could not be tracked down with the citation information provided; SeaWorld’s director of research didn’t have access to them when Visser inquired. Several are not peer reviewed, and at least one had the title changed to imply that captive orcas played a more important role in the research (which was a statistical model) then they actually did.

    shrkb8
    shrkb8 subscriber

    A recent poll in Great Britain revealed over 60% would not go to a park with captive cetaceans.  When the small pools and frozen fish feed were described, the number jumped to 90% who would avoid visiting a captive cetacean park.  A poll this month in the US showed 50% of the public was against captivity up substantially from a similar poll just two years ago.   And now attendance is down despite increases in attendance of other parks. 


    The tide of public opinion has turned against cetacean captivity.  And politicians have caught on.  Both New York and California are considering bills to ban orca captivity and captive breeding.  And nearly three dozen congressmen from both sides of the aisle have demanded that the USDA redefine the humane standards for marine mammal captivity for the first time in decades.  


    Travel companies and restaurants are eliminating their SeaWorld promotions.  Sir Richard Branson has called for both sides to present their cases to him so he can decide what Virgin airlines will do.


    The public is turning against marine mammal captivity, and the politicians and former commercial partners are abandoning SeaWorld.  The handwriting is on the wall.


    SeaWorld's bullheaded stance on orca captivity shows that they are in denial of this growing opposition to their business model.  It would be in the best interest of their stockholders for SeaWorld to transition to a new business model before attendance or legislation forces the change upon them.

    CCTS
    CCTS subscriber

    Now after calling Dr Rose 'keiko killer' when the person in charge of the project was Lanny Cornell (Seaworld vet) and he had ALL these things to say about how healthy Keiko was http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/whales/interviews/cornell.html StandwithSeaworld want to be don't like being called pro-captivity, even though that is what they are, they want to be called pro-conservation. Well if that is the case, how come at least 12 of the orcas Seaworld created in their tanks have NO CONSERVATION VALUE what so ever. They created hybrids that can never be put back into the open ocean as they have no equivalent out there. Better they stick to pro-captivity and it definately isn't pro conservation.

    tanderson
    tanderson subscriber

    I wish they brought up the issue of drugging the orcas with Xanax like drugs. If these animals are not stressed by captivity and performing why do they need theses drugs?

    vosdscott
    vosdscott

    @kirstenwrites stacked panel? All participants, including Rose & anti-captivity folks attending, were full of praise for how we managed it.

    MaralKalinian
    MaralKalinian subscriber

    @vosdscott I did thank you for bringing them to the public forum but you didn't represent both sides in your follow up articles. In any case, you did what most have not been able to do and I'm sure that came with a price. 

    Angela Garza
    Angela Garza subscriber

    Dr. Rose you are amazing!  I was so impressed with your composure.  I am a teacher and I have been moderating these debates in class.  It is exciting to see students having these debates, and many who are anti- captivity have brought up the point you made about the market deciding.  

    KirstenMassebeau
    KirstenMassebeau subscriber

    Dr. Naomi Rose was fantastic as she sat on a panel stacked against her much like this article that gives #SeaWorld and not the whales or Naomi Rose the last word. Despite the unbalanced panel Dr. Naomi Rose made it clear to that orca do not belong in tanks where babies are ripped from their mothers, and where their lives are that of prisoners in the cement cells at SeaWorld. 

    Grammie
    Grammie subscribermember

    Would the critics of Sea World be in favor of a Federal Government takeover, if they renamed it :"Institute for Orca Research"?

    shrkb8
    shrkb8 subscriber

    @Grammie Are you serious?  SeaWorld is hardly a research institute.  They are an entertainment park.  And they are deriving revenue at the expense of their captive marine mammals.  They keep them in dinky concrete pools devoid of any semblance of their natural habitat.  The lifespan of SeaWorld's orcas is half that of wild orcas.  And you ask a question about Government takeover?


    SeaWorld would serve its stockholders best by transitioning to a new business model ASAP.  The tide of public opinion has turned.  And now even politicians are waking up to that fact with pending legislation in California and New York and Congressmen demanding an update to the welfare standards of marine mammals.  


    21 countries have either outright banned orca captivity or have enacted standards so strict that no orcas are kept captive in their country.  South Carolina banned it decades ago.  Aquariums in the US and Canada are considering putting an end to their cetacean captivity.  Baltimore aquarium is considering opening a sea pen facility for captive dolphin retirement.  


    Time for SeaWorld to wake up and change their business model before the change is forced upon them by declining attendance or legislative action.

    cewing2301
    cewing2301 subscriber

    @Grammie  no, they need to be retired and put into sea pens, if they can be trained to touch a ball, wave to you and splash you, then their natural habits CAN be retrained too

    all it takes is just using your Common Sense. these animals started in the ocean for a reason, they weight up to 6 tons, usually 4 tons is the smallest.  that means they are 8000 lbs. now why in the world is an animal like that stuck in a extra large swimming pool forced to do tricks?

    common sense will tell you it isn't right

    shrkb8
    shrkb8 subscriber

    "Everybody that works at SeaWorld is the advocate of an animal that is part of their family and these animals are doing well. And I can guarantee you, if they weren’t doing well, you would have a mass exodus of veterinarians, animal trainers, activists … they would be with Dr. Rose but they’re not.”


    Actually there are a number of trainers and former SeaWorld employees coming out against SeaWorld, advocating an end to orca entertainment shows, and calling for an end to captive breeding.  SeaWorld attempts to discredit each and every one of them.  These brave souls suffer the denigration of their former employer and peers to bring the public the truth.


    Another statement from the SeaWorld vet is that when they ask for money for orca health they always get it.  Why then does SeaWorld spend millions renovating the Shamu Stadium but nothing on larger tanks and creating a more natural environment for the orcas?  Why did SeaWorld get cited for using medical supplies that were a decade out of date?  And why then did SeaWorld get cited for the poor maintenance of the marine mammal entertainment facilities?


    It seems that the SeaWorld representatives did not speak the whole truth.  Most telling was when the vet admitted they misled the public with their online response to Blackfish' claims on dorsal fin collapse.  He had to the scientist who did the research quoted by SeaWorld called them out on misrepresentation of her data and pointed out other, more recent research that supported Blackfish statements.

    shrkb8
    shrkb8 subscriber

    @tanderson @shrkb8 Agreed...any current SeaWorld employee will not publicly come out against SeaWorld.  And, for the most part, those working with cetaceans at SeaWorld could not find another paying job dealing with marine mammals  as they are under qualified.  So if they want to work with cetaceans SeaWorld is one of their few choices.  If they really cared about the animals more than their personal desire to work with them, they would bail out and come out against captivity.

    tanderson
    tanderson subscriber

    @shrkb8 I'm also sure a paycheck prevents that mass exodus too. Those SeaWorld people were so full of it.

    Naomi Rose
    Naomi Rose subscriber

    My comments on dorsal fin collapse in captivity may have been misunderstood. Dorsal fin collapse in captivity is not caused by illness or injury or depression. That's all I meant. In captivity, it is the result of gravity acting on the animals' fins (not a concern in the wild), because they spend too much time at the surface. But that change in time spent underwater in itself may be a health issue, making the collapse a sign of other conditions. The collapse is a deformity and in the process of deforming may lead to problems. To call it simply an "aesthetic issue" is profoundly inappropriate (that was quite a spin Dr. Robeck put on my words!), especially from a veterinarian. I have seen no published studies on dorsal fin collapse (surprising, given it is a captivity-associated disfigurement that should have long since been investigated) – SeaWorld might want to determine through systematic examination whether there are associated concerns and publish the results in a peer-reviewed journal before making such an unsubstantiated statement.

    Naomi Rose
    Naomi Rose subscriber

    I think my comments on dorsal fin collapse were a bit misunderstood, and I accept some responsibility for that, given how I phrased them. Dorsal fin collapse in captivity is indeed not caused by illness or injury or depression (it does seem to be caused by illness or injury in the wild). That's all I meant. It is the result of gravity acting on the animals' fins, because they spend so much time at the surface. But that change in time spent underwater in itself may be a health issue, making the collapse a symptom of a complex set of conditions. Also the collapse may cause other problems - it is a deformity. To call it simply an "aesthetic issue" is profoundly inappropriate, especially coming from a veterinarian. That is somewhat like saying osteoporosis, which can cause skeletal deformities (but please understand that I am not implying the same mechanisms are involved, given there is no bone or cartilage in the fin), is merely an aesthetic issue.

    RememberBuckLuthorJake
    RememberBuckLuthorJake subscriber

    @Naomi Rose  Can you explain why you didn't order a necropsy on Keiko?  Or why you made decisions that allowed this wonderful animal to starve to death frightened and alone.


    Also can you explain your involvement in the Sugarloaf Sanctuary and the how it contributed to the death of Buck and Luthor.  Also why, when Molly was removed from Sugarloaf by APHIS (the only time APHIS ever confiscated an marine mammal) she was morbidly obese?  


    Now you are advocating for more releases and sanctuaries as if your previous attempts didn't end in the death of the animals.  How many more marine mammals are you willing to kill?


    Since so many people want to hear the whole truth I thought you could enlighten all of us on your involvement in these murders.

    Naomi Rose
    Naomi Rose subscriber

    @RememberBuckLuthorJake @Naomi Rose  - Thank you for your questions. I did want a necropsy on Keiko, but I was not in charge (you give me far more credit for authority at my former employer than I deserve). Just as Dr. Robeck pointed out that he had no say in Skyla and Kohana being sent to Loro Parque at such young ages, it was not my decision not to do a necropsy on Keiko. That was the project veterinarian's decision (Dr. Lanny Cornell). I pushed very hard for a necropsy and frankly got into considerable trouble with my employers because of it.


    As for the rest of your comment on Keiko, you are simply wrong and I don't know what else to say about that. For the 15 months Keiko was living in Norway, he was being cared for daily by his caretaking team, who moved lock stock and barrel to Norway and rented a house above the fjord where Keiko lived. Whoever out there is saying otherwise is either uninformed or lying. He was in good health...until he wasn't, about 36 hours before he died. That's what happens with these animals - I hope you are as concerned whenever a SeaWorld whale dies within 36 hours of going off his/her feed. 


    I appreciate you asking about Sugarloaf, since you clearly don't know all the details of what happened there. Buck, Luther (not Luthor - that's Superman's nemesis, Lex) and Jake all were returned to the Navy, after the former two were illegally released. When Buck and Luther were recovered, they were in poor shape, but all three were returned to the Navy and died some time later under their care. I had long since been banned from the Sugarloaf property (due to my disagreements with the management there) when they were released and when Molly was confiscated. In the end, I was subpoenaed and testified against those who released Buck and Luther when they were charged with MMPA violations by NMFS.


    As for your third comment, I have always been open and honest about the one release where an animal did die - Dano, a tucuxi dolphin who was released in Colombia. Again, against my wishes he was not tagged and therefore we could not track him as we did Keiko and he was found entangled in a fishing net 9 days after his release. This tragedy haunts me to this day and I learned that if those involved in a release will not tag the animal, I need to walk away. I wonder if Taima and Kotar and Gudrun and all the other orcas who died prematurely at SeaWorld haunt the staff who were responsible for the decisions that led to their deaths? Do they haunt you as much as Buck and Luther's deaths apparently do?


    Regardless, Keiko did not die "frightened and alone" - he died at 26, far older than most adult male orcas die at SeaWorld. Buck and Luther did not die due to their release (which I opposed at that point in their rehab anyway) - they died under the Navy's care. You need to get your facts straight before making such outrageous accusations. You also might want to come out from behind your alias before using terms like "murder."

    RememberBuckLuthorJake
    RememberBuckLuthorJake subscriber

    @Naomi Rose @RememberBuckLuthorJake It is a FACT that Buck was never well enough to be transported back to the Navy.  It is a FACT that he died at Dolphin Research Center.  Check the NMFS inventory if you don't believe me.  If you can't get this simple, checkable FACT correct how can anyone believe anything you say that is not public record.


    Naomi Rose
    Naomi Rose subscriber

    @RememberBuckLuthorJake @Naomi Rose  Sorry, we are speaking at cross-purposes, replying on multiple threads here. I acknowledged that Buck was not well enough to be transported and stayed at DRC for the rest of his life. But the necropsy results are not public, so forgive me if I continue to reserve judgment on why he died years later. Even if it was because of his release, I can only repeat - I testified against those who released him in court. And I do regret what happened at Sugarloaf and learned from my mistakes. I wonder why I never hear SeaWorld express any regret for the dozens of orcas who have died - prematurely - at their parks? And from where I'm standing, they aren't learning anything from their mistakes - they don't even acknowledge they've made them, even when presenting a graph that shows a survivorship curve that clearly reflects a trial-and-error (emphasis on "error") method of developing husbandry techniques.


    I also note again that you are saying all of this under an alias. And you have not responded to several of my comments or questions, such as how you felt when Gudrun or Taima died. Did you push SeaWorld to acknowledge their mistakes - or call those deaths "murders"? Just wondering.

    CCTS
    CCTS subscriber

    @RememberBuckLuthorJake @Naomi Rose  I know this is not meant to be a mud slinging contest, but seeing as you would like it to become one Todd Robeck is also the guy who orchestrated SeaWorld’s 2003 attempt to import body parts from dead and live animals taken in the drive hunts in Taiji. They might not take the live dolphins from there but the sperm and parts are OK then? 

    Naomi Rose
    Naomi Rose subscriber

    @CCTS @RememberBuckLuthorJake @Naomi Rose  I don't particularly want it to become a mud-slinging contest, but using the term "murder" does seem like I should respond. But you are right - I should just let it go. And thanks for the point about bringing in "products" (my conclusion at the time we commented on that permit application was that he wanted sperm and eggs) from the drive hunts.

    RememberBuckLuthorJake
    RememberBuckLuthorJake subscriber

    @Naomi Rose @RememberBuckLuthorJake

    Sorry for the delay in my response.  Had to go celebrate World Ocean Day by visiting a facility that saved some sea lions that stranded in last year's UME on the west coast.  Boy, those pups seem happy to be alive after humans overfished their food source and thousands of them had to be rescued by the stranding centers, SeaWorld and other marine mammal facilities.  How many sea lions did you and your organization save last year?


    Seems like we are agreeing on several points:


    No attempts to "free" any marine mammals that have lived in human care that you or anyone else has been involved in has resulted in success.


    The one sanctuary that has been created in the US which you were involved in was not a success.


    Any day that protesters are at any marine mammal facility there are more people inside being educated than outside protesting.


    Here is where we do not see eye to eye:


    When you say the people will decide what will decide the future of marine mammal parks I respond that they are deciding every day.


    When you suggest in several public forums that freeing these animals and creating sanctuaries is a good idea for their futures you not speaking from any success stories and are misleading people with a fairy tale.


    I did not see your comment regarding my feelings about Gudrun or Taima.  It is always a tragedy when a marine mammal dies in any setting.  And the care takers of those animals suffer the most pain and constant second guessing of any decision they made.  I do know that any one who cared for those animals made the best choices they could.  And your implying that they didn't is an insult to them (sound familiar).  The difference between their actions and yours is that they didn't abandon the animals and then blame their former associates for the outcome of a situation that they share responsibility. 


    Finally, I joined this discussion group and saw that most commenters chose aliases.  So I chose one.  I am not the person crusading on the media, making my living by encouraging the public to believe fantasies like freeing dolphins and setting up sanctuaries.  That is a choice that you made. 




    Naomi Rose
    Naomi Rose subscriber

    @RememberBuckLuthorJake @Naomi Rose 

    I would like to thank Mike Madsen – SWMike – for explaining how to locate the identity of posters here. Now that I realize RememberBuckLuthorJake is Rita Irwin of the Dolphin Research Center, I realize I am up against a very entrenched internal narrative. No matter what I have said, it has been misunderstood or spun, so I will bow out now. For anyone still listening/reading, if you have any questions or would like any clarifications of what has (and has not) been said here, please email me at my work address, naomi@awionline.org.


    To Rita, we have never met, so I would not presume to understand how you feel about what happened with Buck, Luther, and Jake, but from your posts here, I sense extraordinary bitterness. For whatever role I did actually play and that you believe I played in causing you to feel this way, I apologize. However, you might want to reserve some of your more extreme accusations for a time after we’ve actually met each other. I have counselled people to hold their fire on Todd Robeck, for example, because after having shared a stage with him, I did not doubt his sincerity. We are all human beings, not one-dimensional adversaries, no matter on which side of an issue we stand. We will never move forward until we stop demonizing each other, whether it’s about captive cetaceans or politics or whatever! For what it’s worth.

    cewing2301
    cewing2301 subscriber

    @Naomi Rose @RememberBuckLuthorJake  I was just going to comment this person with the alias is someone you have had a "tiff" with about the dolphins.  and they trying to discredit you in public. IF they really wanted to make themselves creditable they wouldn't hide under the alias of the dolphins

    RememberBuckLuthorJake
    RememberBuckLuthorJake subscriber

    @Naomi Rose @RememberBuckLuthorJake 

    While your apology is appreciated, it’s not to me that you should apologize, but to the animals who were ultimately harmed by the failed effort that was the Sugarloaf Dolphin Sanctuary. Far from bitter, I am deeply saddened by what happened to them at the time, and the long term impacts on their health. Thankfully, Molly was seized from that place and brought here. I am privileged to lead the team of dedicated people who have cared for her ever since. Thanks to our devotion and daily attention to her health, wellbeing, social interactions, physical exercise and mental stimulation over the last 18 years, she has thrived and is now in her mid-50s. I am happy to accept your apology on Molly’s behalf.

    RememberBuckLuthorJake
    RememberBuckLuthorJake subscriber

    @Naomi Rose

    (con't)

    I agree with you that we are all human beings and not one-dimensional adversaries. It is refreshing to hear you support the concept of moving forward in ways that do not demonize opponents. I suggest you join us in taking the movement forward even more by focusing on the devastating global issues that exist. All who care about marine mammals and the ocean must make part of our mission to educate the world about the environmental and man-made threats that impact and endanger marine life of all species around the world. Many hundreds of thousands of dolphins, whales, porpoises and sea turtles die every year in fishing gear. Every species of marine animal is affected by pollutants and marine debris in their aquatic home.

    Naomi Rose
    Naomi Rose subscriber

    @RememberBuckLuthorJake @Naomi Rose  Rita, I have never attacked anyone in the public display community by name. I have always approached this issue focused on practices, not people. I, however, have frequently been attacked by name - including by you.


    As for joining you in moving forward by focusing on devastating global issues, I am already working on these global issues. I work at the IWC Scientific Committee on the environmental concerns standing working group (where we address emerging diseases, marine noise, climate change, pollution, marine debris, ship strikes, and ocean acidification) and the whale-watching subcommittee, where we work to manage and control whale-watching to minimize impacts. I work to control and end the international trade in wildlife, especially of live dolphins from Solomon Islands and Taiji, live belugas and orcas from Russia - I have traveled to both Russia and China to address this trade - and polar bears and their products. I have worked for two decades on the issue of marine noise, serving on federal advisory committees and participating in international workshops to mitigate the impact of human activities such as seismic exploration and military sonar on marine mammals - a new book, War of the Whales by Joshua Horwitz, will be published by Simon and Schuster in July that features some of my work, although I am only a minor character in his impressive coverage of the issue. I have been fighting the continued hunting of whales (by Japan, Norway, and Iceland) and dolphins (by Japan) since 1999. I have worked on protecting a small critically endangered population of Indo-Pacific humpbacked dolphins in Taiwan since the mid-2000s and have been involved in efforts to save Maui's dolphins (a critically endangered sub-species of Hector's dolphin) for about the same amount of time.


    Every day is World Ocean's Day to me.

    barb graham
    barb graham subscriber

    Studying whale feces from captive animals fed an unnatural diet is like studying wolves at the dog pound.

    cewing2301
    cewing2301 subscriber

    @barb graham  yea I was thinking that too barb.  ok you're studying feces of animals that eat dead fish and going to save the wild that eat live fish?  the vet is a Dr Jekyll

    Martha Sullivan
    Martha Sullivan subscribermember

    Lisa and Scott. Thank You both and VOSD more broadly for a well-executed Panel Discussion on SeaWorld and the captivity of orcas last night in La Jolla. You made me proud to be a VOSD member/donor.

    I just wanted to share a very relevant and timely interview in National Geographic with the CEO of our National Aquarium, which is exploring the development of a National Dolphin Sanctuary. It would be VERY worthwhile to follow-up on its efforts, since they most definitely bear on the future of the 10 orcas (and one in the way) here in San Diego. See following.

    DieABeetus
    DieABeetus

    @LisaHalverstadt they need to keep reiterating the fact that an orcas natural habitat cannot be mimicked even to the slightest degree!

    AlfieUncle
    AlfieUncle subscriber

    Robeck:   "Everybody that works at SeaWorld is the advocate of an animal that is part of their family" Seriously?????!!!!!  Part of their family????    Would this vet and this trainer want THEIR family members taken by another species, never to see them again? To live in a closet and be fed only when they come out to perform? Be masturbated by another species? Be artificially inseminated, become pregnant and then have your children taken away? I don't think so. To call these captive animals their "family" is a disgrace.

    Mark Giffin
    Mark Giffin subscribermember

    " SeaWorld killer whale trainer Kristi Burtis and Todd Robeck"

    Bravo for stepping into the lions den.

    RememberBuckLuthorJake
    RememberBuckLuthorJake subscriber

    @Martha Sullivan Did anyone ask Dr. Rose why she continues to use her title since she got it working with capitive marine mammals?

    Why didn't Dr. Rose order a field necropsy to determine why Keiko died?

    Has she ever explained her involvement in the Sugarloaf Dolphin Santuary and the resulting deaths of dolphins that were dumped illegally and ultimately died from that experience? This didn't happen 50 years ago. 

    She too is responsible for deaths of marine mammals.  Why isn't she being held accountable?

    shrkb8
    shrkb8 subscriber

    @RememberBuckLuthorJake @Martha Sullivan The big difference is Dr. Rose fights for the welfare of the animals.  The SeaWorld reps fight for the welfare of SeaWorld's business model.  Very telling was the statement by the SeaWorld vet that SeaWorld will not change their business model.  If he were truly advocating for the orcas how could he support this statement?  Wouldn't he have put a condition on that declarative statement, like "so long as it does not have a negative impact on the welfare of its animals, SeaWorld will not change their business model?  The absence of any caveat was very, very telling as to where the SeaWorld vet's sentiments lie.


    It seems Dr. Rose learned from her involvement in marine mammal deaths, while SeaWorld and their staff are in denial and mask their mistakes publicly so that they can continue to exploit these poor, deprived animals for their own jobs and company profits.


    As to academic title.....Any phd is conferred the title of Doctor.  Unlike elected officials or company titles conferred by specific positions, changing jobs does not change the title of those who have earned the title from degree or testing.  Doctor, Esquire, Professional Engineer go with the individual regardless of position or job.



    KirstenMassebeau
    KirstenMassebeau subscriber

    @Mark Giffin Kirsti and Todd did a great job showing money, please the people program at #SeaWorld. It was obvious they did not care about animals just humans. 

    RememberBuckLuthorJake
    RememberBuckLuthorJake subscriber

    @shrkb8 @RememberBuckLuthorJake @Martha Sullivan  Still waiting to here Dr. Rose take responsibility for her part in killing Keiko, and the Sugarloaf Sanctuary fiasco.  She helped kill these marine mammals in the name of "freedom". 


    When did she learn from her involvement?  Some of the deaths of orcas at SeaWorld happened before Dr. Rose got involved in either of these misguided attempts to "free" animals who were clearly not good candidates for this torture.  She seems to have forgotten her own involvement with marine mammal deaths that occurred during and after the incidents she cites at the SeaWorld facilities.


    And who had to clean up her mess?  Facilities that do care for marine mammals in human care.  Where is the one animal that survived in the Sugarloaf Sanctuary still living 18 years later?  At a facility that took her in, reversed her morbidly obese situation, spent $100,000 in court to assure she wasn't abused again and continues to care for her. 


    Maybe someone could also shed some light on the business model of HSUS which spends more on pensions and misleads the public into thinking they are donating to local shelters.  Dr. Rose worked for them for years.  Do you think she is donating her time now?

    shrkb8
    shrkb8 subscriber

    @RememberBuckLuthorJake @shrkb8 @Martha Sullivan And when will SeaWorld own up to their lasting impact to the orca NW population?  The death of 37 orcas.  The death of two trainers and the other individual killed by Tilicum?  When will SeaWorld publish all the injuries orcas have inflicted on their trainers?  When will SeaWorld admit that their dinky tanks devoid of any semblance of the orcas' natural environment is bad for them?  When will they fess up that the ground down teeth of their orcas is due to the orcas chewing on the pool edge concrete out of boredom?  When will they admit that wild orcas do not mate and give birth at 8 years of age?  When will SeaWorld admit that the way they move orcas has nothing to do with what is best for the orcas and breaks their family units up for profit motives?


    It seems Dr. Rose, like any good scientist learns from her mistakes.  While SeaWorld's only motive is profit.


    RememberBuckLuthorJake
    RememberBuckLuthorJake subscriber

    @shrkb8  When and where did Dr. Rose acknowledge her mistakes with Keiko, Jake, Luthor, Buck and Molly? 


    You keep ignoring my simple questions about the facts of her involvement in killing marine mammals is not something that she has been forth coming about.  Or is it as old as the "facts" that you keep repeating about SeaWorld.  SeaWorld has also learned a lot about how to care for marine mammals and the health records are improving.  You forgive Dr. Rose for deaths that could have been avoided but not SeaWorld.  You accuse the business model of SeaWorld and ignore HSUS's clear misleading statements and business profits.


    Where is the list of ANY marine mammals that lived after Dr. Rose tried to  rehabilitate or release them? 


    While Dr. Rose talks theory Dr, Robeck and his team save 100s of marine mammals every year.  And educate 100s of thousand of guests about how to  help save other marine mammals .  Spending 8 million dollars to let Keiko starve to death and then not allow a necropsy to be done is inexcusable.  What does Dr. Rose say about that "mistake"?


    SeaWorld had nothing to do with the death of the other trainer.  Dawn's death was an accident and a tragedy.  Keiko's death was premeditated murder. 


    Please answer my questions about Dr. Rose's participation in these unethical situations and stop repeating rumors about SeaWorld as if that was a response.  Perhaps you were unaware of Dr. Rose's involvement in these mistakes.  Since she answered other posts on this page perhaps she could enlighten all of us.

    Naomi Rose
    Naomi Rose subscriber

    @RememberBuckLuthorJake @Martha Sullivan  To set the record straight, I did not get my "title" - my degree, I assume you mean - working with captive marine mammals. I studied wild orcas for my Ph.D. I DID want a field  necropsy of Keiko when he died - I almost lost my job by pushing for one. The person responsible for the lack of a necropsy was the project's veterinarian, not me. As for the Sugarloaf dolphin sanctuary, Buck, Luther, and Jake were illegally released, absolutely - and recovered by the NMFS and Navy (they did not die as a result of their release, but years later after being returned to the Navy). I in fact testified against the people responsible for that illegal release. I fully accept that I was involved in a release of two dolphins in Colombia where one died soon after release - I wrote about that tragedy soon after it occurred, back in the late 90s. I have never tried to deny my involvement in that. I'm not really sure where you're getting your information from, but it's mostly incorrect.

    RememberBuckLuthorJake
    RememberBuckLuthorJake subscriber

    @Naomi Rose @RememberBuckLuthorJake @Martha Sullivan 

    Buck was never returned to the Navy.  He was nursed back to health (as best as could have been expected) at the Dolphin Research Center.  He was examined by 3 vets who acknowledged that the starvation that resulted from 13 days in the wild with no food damaged his organs.  He died several years after his rescue from complications from that ordeal. 


    The point is that you were part of the team that established the sanctuary and then walked away for internal political reasons.  You  and your organization,  HSUS,  helped people with dubious credentials secure the animals.  You left the dolphins in the hands of the people who ultimately killed them.  That is your involvement in the sanctuary. 


    Perhaps I misunderstood the story you tell about working at Dr. Herman's lab and a dolphin not taking a liking to you and you feeling frightened.  I'm sure you can set the record straight.


    Are you saying that you were not part of the decision making team that chose to just feed Keiko a little instead of bringing back to the sea pen?

    Naomi Rose
    Naomi Rose subscriber

    @RememberBuckLuthorJake @Naomi Rose @Martha Sullivan 


    Thanks for clarifying Buck's situation - you are correct, he remained at DRC for the rest of his life (but he was still "owned" by the Navy). I will reserve my opinion as to whether he died years later due to complications from his release, having never seen his necropsy report or his veterinary records.


    As for my involvement, I think you missed my saying in another post that I was banned from the property - I did not walk away because of internal politics. I remained involved, in fact, working with the US agencies seeking to secure the welfare of these dolphins. You are correct, that situation deteriorated quickly and I certainly learned a harsh lesson about who to get in bed with on these kinds of projects. I learned from my mistakes (and again, I think about them often)


    I was an undergraduate when I worked at Lou Herman's lab in Hawaii. During my one semester at Lou's lab, I did swim with the animals once - the entire encounter lasted about five minutes tops, because very soon after getting in the water, I was rammed by one dolphin and had my facemask knocked off by another and then was pulled out of the pool by the research staff. I never had time to be frightened - for whatever reason, they didn't like me and told me so, pretty forcefully.


    As for Keiko, quite a few folks who were SeaWorld alumni walked away from Keiko when he was still in Iceland. Fortunately we were there to pick up the pieces they left behind and Keiko survived for two more years (again, not "frightened and alone" but with his caretaking team in attendance - it's really insulting to their dedication to perpetuate this falsehood).


    Mark Giffin
    Mark Giffin subscribermember

    @CCTS @Mark Giffin 

    So BFD.

    You haters are going to hate no matter what they do.

    I was simply acknowledging the fact they participated in front of hostility which is evidenced by most posting on this subject.

    Naomi Rose
    Naomi Rose subscriber

    @SWMike @Naomi Rose @RememberBuckLuthorJake @Martha Sullivan  The "Dr. Venkman" crack was funny the first time, but you posted this twice. And yet again, I'm being accused by someone under an alias - brave folk, you all are. As for all the unsubstantiated claims I make, please specify - I don't see any, but I am more than willing to substantiate any specific point you list.

    SWMike
    SWMike subscriber

    @Naomi Rose @SWMike @RememberBuckLuthorJake @Martha Sullivan   It was meant to be humorous Dr. Rose and indeed it was done to make a point, one that I'm sure was not lost on someone as astute as yourself. 


    As for the double posting, I'm not responsible for the inexplicable variables of this website, and there was no intention on my part of posting it twice. I have deleted it in an attempt to correct that mistake. 


    Re: posting under an alias, my full name can be clearly seen when clicking on my username. My fans and the community at large know me better by my nom de plum, SeaWorld Mike of the Unofficial SeaWorld Podcast. I am not trying to make my identity secret. 


    Again, I look forward to reading more about Keiko's situation from a differing perspective in the book "Killing Keiko".  Should be an interesting read.

    CCTS
    CCTS subscriber

    I believe it was stand with sea world who asked the supporters there to boo Naomi rose shall I go find the tweet for you?

    CCTS
    CCTS subscriber

    It certainly will as everyone will believe the word of someone who's company ocean embassy has every reason to promote captivity as they work with the Solomon Island dolphin catchers and sent dolphins over to Atlantis Dubai restarting their drive hunts lol

    CCTS
    CCTS subscriber

    So you think, but at least we openly engage with you rather than block or delete anyone with a differing opinion to your own. If sea world did let those orcas have a more natural life and stopped the shows, would you still go there and still support them?

    Martha Sullivan
    Martha Sullivan subscribermember

    Dr Naomi Rose also faced a very energized audience in opposition, and before the event was called "Keiko's Killer" on social media by "Stand By SeaWorld". You will see/hear on the recording of this panel discussion that the first heckling by the audience was of Dr Rose.

    cewing2301
    cewing2301 subscriber

    @Mark Giffin @CCTS  mark, it isn't hating, its using our common sense

    if you would do that you too would feel the same as we do

    the vet said they have NO intentions of even trying to retire the orcas, or even come up with a new business model

    so from here on out we know what we have to do for what is right.

    stop using 4-6ton animals as a circus act

    use your common sense.