'Racing Extinction' director isn't flipping over SeaWorld move

By JOHN HOWELL The Daily Fray
November 10, 2015 7:55 pm

SeaWorld's killer whale shows are ending in San Diego and pressure is expected to mount at SeaWorld Orlando. "There are state and federal laws being proposed now that will doom SeaWorld if the publics' lack of support doesn't crash their current business model first," said Louie Psihoyos, a fierce dolphin advocate and Oscar-winning filmmaker.

SeaWorld executives were told Monday that "theatrical” entertainment by orcas in California will end after 2016. The decision does not affect other SeaWorld venues, including Orlando. "We listen to our guests [and] so far what we’ve been hearing in California, they want experiences that are more natural and experiences that look more natural in the environment," SeaWorld CEO Joel Manby told a meeting of senior executives.


But SeaWorld also is fighting a recent ruling by the California Coastal Commission that bars breeding orcas as a condition of moving forward with the tank expansion project.

"The announcement by SeaWorld that they were going to replace their orca circus act with some other show with more 'natural' behaviors is a step in the right direction," Psihoyos said in an email. "But the public is getting wise to the idea that is nothing natural about watching a killer whale in a concrete tank."

Psihoyos won an Academy Award in 2010 for “The Cove,” a searing analysis of dolphin hunting in Japan. "Blackfish," a 2013 documentary by Gabriela Cowperthwait, also triggered a public backlash and a financial nosedive for SeaWorld.

“Owning SeaWorld stock will be like owning shares of a buggy whip factory as the automobile gained popularity,” said Psihoyos, whose “Racing Extinction” was honored at the Blue Ocean Film Festival Nov. 6-9 in Monaco.

The documentary is scheduled for a global broadcast debut Dec. 2 on Discovery Channel.


psihoyos.jpg“We will break out the champagne only when [SeaWorld] empty their tanks for good.”


» Blue flash: "For talk on captive dolphins, panel gets wild" 

Psihoyos said SeaWorld “was of course reacting to falling attendance and impending legislations that will eventually condemn all their dolphin acts but their announcement was cause for cautious celebration.”

In 2014, Psihoyos was in the thick of an angry debate on captive dolphins at Blue Ocean in St. Petersburg, challenging Clearwater Marine Aquarium’s David Yates. At the time, Psihoyos said, “I think when you take any dolphin out of the wild, when you teach it to do tricks for our amusement, it says a lot more about our culture than it does theirs.”

“SeaWorld management have been forcing behaviors on Orcas in cramped tanks that have led to the deaths of trainers and caused orcas to mutilate and kill each other and their management claims this is normal,” Psihoyos said. “We will break out the champagne only when [SeaWorld] empty their tanks for good.”


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BLUE Ocean Film Festival