Blog | Earth Island Advances Lawsuit Against SeaWorld

Earth Island Advances Lawsuit Against SeaWorld

April 13, 2015 by Mark Palmer, Save Japan Dolphins

Lawsuit Seeks Injunction Forcing SeaWorld
to Tell the Truth About Orca Whale Captivity

San Francisco, CA.  Today, two former visitors to SeaWorld, who paid to attend the marine park in San Diego, CA, filed suit against SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc. on the basis of false and misleading claims made by SeaWorld about the health and welfare of captive orca whales.  The plaintiffs are represented by Covington & Burling LLP, which is being assisted by Earth Island Institute’s International Marine Mammal Project.

“SeaWorld is luring people to buy tickets based on a pack of false and misleading statements, instead of revealing the cruel and unhealthy conditions that captive orcas have to endure,” states David Phillips, Executive Director of the International Marine Mammal Project of Earth Island Institute.  As one of the world’s leading advocacy groups for dolphins and whales, Earth Island will serve to advance the case and as an advisor to legal counsel and plaintiffs.

“SeaWorld is violating California consumer protection laws and engaging in unfair business practices,” states Christine Haskett, a partner with Covington and based in San Francisco.   “We look forward to working with Earth Island to bring light to this important issue.”  The lawsuit seeks a court order requiring SeaWorld to cease making false statements about the health and welfare of the orcas and to make a factual public statement about the orcas, refuting previous false claims.

Phillips noted that:  “This case has the support of Earth Island, internationally known for our protection efforts for whales and dolphins.  This distinguishes this lawsuit from other lawsuits filed recently against SeaWorld.”

Added Phillips: “If SeaWorld told the truth about the whales’ shortened and stressful lives in concrete tanks, and severe depression and boredom from sterile living conditions, no one would ever go there.  Would people bring their children to SeaWorld if they knew the cruelty behind the orca whale circus show?  We think not.”  IMMP led the successful effort to return Keiko, the orca star of Free Willy, to his home waters of Iceland where he thrived for 6 years. 

The case was filed in San Francisco in the Superior Court of the State of California and states that SeaWorld misleads the public by advertising false claims, such as:

• SeaWorld claims orcas in captivity live as long as those in the wild, but in fact all of the orcas that have died at SeaWorld did so at an early age, well short of the ages reached in the wild.

• SeaWorld claims they do not separate mothers from calves, but, in fact, separation of calves from mothers happens frequently in the SeaWorld parks.  In the wild, calves stay with their mothers for virtually their entire lives.

• SeaWorld claims that the dorsal fins of male orcas in the wild collapse like they do in captivity for virtually all of SeaWorld’s orcas, but studies of wild populations of orcas show only a very small percentage of dorsal fins collapse.  The collapse of captive orca dorsal fins is a sign of unhealthy captive conditions, such as shallow tanks that do not allow orcas to dive and swim long distances.

• SeaWorld claims that orcas are “happy” in captivity, but orcas in captivity are severely stressed and live lives of boredom.  They have to be treated with antacids for ulcers, with antidepressants, and with antibiotics for infections that occur only in captivity, such as those resulting from severe tooth wear that happens when bored and frustrated orcas begin chewing on metal gates and concrete tanks.  They die premature deaths.  At least three trainers have been killed by orcas in captivity, including two trainers killed by SeaWorld orcas, and there have been many incidents of injuries to trainers from orcas in captivity.  Yet, orcas in the wild have never been known to attack or kill people.


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Copy of the litigation complaint:


Earth Island Institute is a non-profit organization headquartered in Berkeley, California, supporting projects to protect the biological and human diversity of the Earth.  The International Marine Mammal Project (IMMP) works to protect whales, dolphins, and their ocean habitats.  IMMP developed the Dolphin Safe standards for tuna, saving the lives of 80,000 to 100,000 dolphins every year and was lead plaintiff in a series of lawsuits that effectively ended the practice of setting nets on dolphins by the US tuna fleet.



Photo of orca performance at SeaWorld Orlando by Mark J. Palmer/Earth Island Institute.

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