Currents: Week of March 17, 2014

Captivity continues to make a splash, Pacific/Atlantic on cusp of NAVY and seismic testing and whaling (not with a harpoon) goes viral

By Lauren Campbell, Conservation Manager

When creating any ocean advocacy campaign, there are two major aspects to consider: 1. how to generate momentum and 2. how to keep that momentum going.

Just over a year ago, the documentary Blackfish debut at the Sundance Film Festival, reminding us that while Free Willy may have rocked the boat some twenty years ago, the issue of marine mammal captivity is still alive and well.  

Although the movie Free Willy generated enough momentum to grant freedom to at least one orca, fifty-four orca whales currently live in captivity around the world, in addition to hundreds (if not thousands) of dolphins, seals and walruses.   

Blackfish picks up where Free Willy left off, and instead of promoting the rehabilitation and release of individual whales, questions the morality of the entire captive display industry - which is why I was estatic when the movie was released.  Estatic, but also skeptical that it could maintain the momentum needed to change the industry once and for all.

To my pleasant surprise, Blackfish, and its message, only seems to continue to gain in popularity.  I reported last week that California Assemblyman Richard Bloom introduced the Orca Wellfare and Safety Act to phase out orca captivity in the state.  If you are a resident of California, contact your state representative and tell them to support this bill!  Not a resident of California?  Florida and Texas should be the next states to follow suite, so get your picketing gear ready! 

Hopefully you're also a bit curious about the orcas that this bill would affect.  No worries, Twitter is trending on that point, too, see: #seaworld10 by author David Kirby who nicely details the orcas currently in captivity in California, as well as their outcome should the bill pass (note, 7 of the 10 are captive bred, meaning that release into the wild would not be feasible).    

Riding on the bill's coattails is the hope for Lolita, a female orca who, for the better part of forty years, has resided and performed in the Miami Seaquarium.  Our friends at Save Lolita and the Orca Network have been tirelessly fighting and planning for Lolita's freedom, which could be just around the corner.  In January, the National Marine Fisheries Service proposed to amend regulatory language in the Endangered Species Act that would allow Lolita to be included as part of the Southern Resident orca distinct population segment.  If Lolita act is amended to include Lolita, she would enjoy the same protections under the Endangered Species Act (eh ehm...FREEDOM!) as the other Souther Resident orcas.  

You can sign Pacific Whale Foundation's Save Lolita online petition or visit to learn more!

On another marine mammal protection note, sea life in both the Pacific and Atlantic stand to be threatened, respectively, by NAVY sonar testing and seismic surveys for oil and gas exploration.  

Residents of Humbolt and Mendocino counties in California are particularly incensed that the NAVY is expanding its Northwest training range, a move that means the new range will stretch continuously from Humbolt County to Alaska.  The public is allowed to make comments on the NAVY's 2015-2020 draft Environmental Impact Statement.  Public comments close next Monday, March 25th and can be submitted online, just click here.

East Coast activists are faring little better.  On February 27th, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Managment (BOEM) released the final environmental impact statement (EIS) that recommended extensive seismic arigun testing off the South and Mid-Atlantic coasts. The area is home to an incredible diversity of sea life, including the critically endangered North Atlantic Right Whale that seasonally traverses the coast between its feeding and breeding grounds.  There is one more public comment opportunity that closes on April 7th!   You may submit comments via email directly to BOEM's email address at, or you can visiting the portal and clicking COMMENT NOW!

By the way, a study completed in 2008 showed that male humpback whales sang less frequently on breeding grounds in the presence of noise from seismic surveys than when seismic surveys were not being conducted.  Suffice it to say, we aren't making our oceans any friendlier for marine life...

On a happier note, whaling is going viral - and not the whaling you're thinking of!  The newest trends rocking the cyber world right now are short video clips of people breaching like whales in the strangest of places, from the isles in the grocery store to McDonald's.  While not as graceful as humpbacks, at the very least it should make you smile!  


Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is a process; working together is success. 

~Henry Ford