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December 12, 2013 | By Janet Kinosian
Director Gabriela Cowperthwaite's riveting documentary "Blackfish" tells the story of Tilikum, an aggressive bull orca who has lived the last 30 years in captivity. The film's central debate circles around what exactly caused the whale's behavior linking him to the deaths of three people over the years - natural aggression or the trauma and boredom of captivity? With the death of SeaWorld Orlando trainer Dawn Brancheau in 2010, Cowperthwaite felt compelled to investigate. Through interviews with experts and former SeaWorld trainers, and footage of the animals in the wild and in captivity, the filmmaker puts forth a compelling case for leaving orcas in the wild.
November 13, 2013 | By Soumya Karlamangla
In the latest skirmish in a years-long legal battle prompted by the death of a SeaWorld trainer in Florida, a federal appeals court heard arguments in a case challenging a ban on close contact between SeaWorld staff and killer whales. In 2010 at the Orlando park, killer whale Tilikum snatched trainer Dawn Brancheau from a platform and thrashed her around underwater until she died . Federal workplace investigators later cited SeaWorld , saying trainers were exposed to hazards because they were allowed unprotected contact with the killer whales.
August 29, 2013 | By Hugo Martín
Attendance at SeaWorld parks across the country has dropped 6% in the first half of the year, but is the decline due to bad publicity or bad weather? SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. has endured some harsh publicity lately with the debut this summer of "Blackfish," a documentary about the mistreatment of orca whales in captivity, particularly at SeaWorld Orlando in Florida. In its latest financial report, SeaWorld Entertainment reported attendance of 10.1 million in its 11 parks in the first half of the year, down from 10.7 million in the same period in 2012.
August 1, 2013 | By The Times editorial board
SeaWorld would no doubt prefer that the public forget about Dawn Brancheau, the trainer who died in an attack by a killer whale at its Orlando theme park more than three years ago. But that's unlikely to happen in the near future - not after the recent release of the documentary "Blackfish," which explores why Tilikum, a whale involved in two previous deaths, attacked Brancheau during a performance. Conclusions are hard to draw, but if nothing else, the public is learning to ask harder questions about whether it is humane or right to keep these intelligent, social marine mammals in aquarium tanks, performing for crowds.
January 25, 2013 | By Amy Kaufman, Los Angeles Times
PARK CITY, Utah - It was Samantha Berg's dream job: swimming with orcas. But with only a bachelor's degree in animal science from Cornell University and no hands-on experience with whales, the then-22-year-old assumed she was not qualified to perform stunts in a SeaWorld pool with the powerful 8,000-pound animals. Still, she decided to send her résumé to marine parks nationwide in the hopes that she might land a low-level gig and learn more about sea life. To her surprise, she was called in for an audition at SeaWorld's Orlando park, which asked her to prove her physical acumen by diving 25 feet underwater, picking up a weight, returning to the surface, carrying heavy fish buckets and then jumping up on stage even as she was struggling for breath.
August 26, 2012 | By Rosemary McClure
FRIDAY HARBOR, Wash. - Two dozen hardy travelers were clustered near me on the top deck of a 114-foot ferry, most of us shivering under cloudy skies as a colorful mosaic of water and land slid by the vessel, the Victoria Clipper III. We were sailing through the San Juan Islands, an archipelago of hundreds of isles between mainland Canada, Vancouver Island and Washington state's northwestern coast. As we cruised north from Seattle, rolling hills were replaced by dark green forests and rocky bluffs that overlooked fiord-like inlets.
February 7, 2012 | By Tony Perry, Los Angeles Times
A federal judge appeared dubious Monday about a lawsuit filed by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals that seeks the release of orcas from SeaWorld on anti-slavery grounds. PETA attorney Jeffrey Kerr told U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Miller that invoking the anti-slavery 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in hopes of freeing the orcas is "the next frontier of civil rights. " But Miller told Kerr that he cannot find a legal precedent for allowing a lawsuit to be filed on behalf of the orcas under the 13th Amendment.
January 20, 2012 | By Tony Barboza, Los Angeles Times
Tour boats were buzzing with activity Thursday as sightseers spotted dozens of killer whales cruising the Southern California coast. Whale-watching vessels reported seeing 20 to 40 of the marine mammals, also known as orcas, swimming up the coast from Dana Point to Long Beach. It's not uncommon for killer whales to roam Southern California waters in search of sea lions and other prey, according to the experts who track and identify them. Seeing them in such numbers, however, is unusual.
September 30, 2011 | By Sheri Linden, Special to the Los Angeles Times
The title of the documentary "The Whale" might at first glance seem generic or uninspired, but it's really a nod of awed respect to an extraordinary individual: the orphaned orca that captivated the residents of Vancouver Island for five years beginning in 2001. Thoughtful and moving, if often heavy-handed, "The Whale" follows the remarkable story of Luna and will appeal to animal lovers of all ages, although it doesn't sugarcoat some difficult events. Expanding on their 2008 documentary "Saving Luna," British Columbia-based directors Suzanne Chisholm and Michael Parfit have added footage and receive a profile-heightening boost from executive producers Ryan Reynolds and Scarlett Johansson.
August 16, 2011 | By Christopher Reynolds, Los Angeles Times staff writer
It's been a good summer for orca sightings among kayakers in British Columbia's Johnstone Strait, and at least one outfitter is offering discounts on its last trip of the season. The Johnstone Strait, home to the Robson Bight (Michael Bigg) Orca Preserve, draws many kayak-trip outfitters, including Sea Kayak Adventures , which is based in Idaho but has been running Johnstone Strait trips since 1996. This year, said S.K.A. co-owner Nancy Mertz, “they had a late spring, and it suddenly blossomed into sunshine and orcas.
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