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A Quick Look At The Impact Of Chlorine On Orcas And Trainers

March 17, 2014

Mucus weep from Morgan’s eye. (Ingrid Visser/Free Morgan Foundation)

Over the weekend, The Dodo posted a short article I put together on how the effort to maintain sparkly, clear water in SeaWorld’s pools can affect the physical well-being of the animals (and the humans who used to swim with them).

It’s not the biggest issue with captivity, but is a perfect example of how every little thing can impact the lives of the orcas and other marine mammals:

It is indeed true that great effort is made to maintain the water at just the right temperature and salinity for the animals. What is not mentioned is all the chlorine that is used to keep the water clear and sparkling (you can’t see Shamu clearly in a murky pool), and free of algae and bacteria. (Don’t even get a killer whale trainer started on what it looks like after a killer whale defecates in the pool, or produces any other bodily emissions.)

A number of former SeaWorld trainers I have spoken with about water quality have noted that captive killer whales routinely have mucus streaming from their eyes — an apparent protective mechanism that is considered “normal” at SeaWorld.

After the article was posted this story (from 1985) came to me via Ceta-Base:

Screen Shot 2014-03-17 at 8.25.43 AM

9 Comments leave one →
  1. March 21, 2014 3:56 pm

    Thanks for this post; bringing the topic of chlorine exposure to the surface (pun intended). This has frequently been overlooked. People generally aren’t contemplating the chlorine that keeps the water sparkle clear. I hope attention to this very artificial, unhealthy means of living further supports the ban on Orca whales being kept in captivity.

  2. Rob permalink
    April 8, 2014 2:17 pm

    Before former SeaWorld trainer John Hargrove spoke at the Ca State Assembly Committee this morning, SeaWorld supporters Tweeted that he was going to “lie” in Sacramento this morning.

    They accused John of lying before he even spoke. That kind of petulant mud-slinging really annoys me—especially coming from a crowd that claims to value animals and education.

    SeaWorld supporters can be very nasty and mean-spirited. They have to know that they are on the losing side of this debate.

    I appreciate John Hargrove’s testimony before the committee this morning.

    The Shamu show has got to go.

  3. Rob permalink
    April 12, 2014 5:50 pm

    If you missed the interview Sean Hannity did with former SeaWorld trainer Bridgette Pirtle and a Peta spokesperson Tuesday night (4/8/2014)—consider yourself lucky.

    The host, Sean Hannity, was accommodating to Pirtle who smiled and talked about how well the orcas are cared for at SeaWorld. (I think Bridgette would go back to SeaWorld and ride those whales again in a heartbeat, if she could. Her parents were wise in persuading her to quit, if that’s how it happened.)

    When Hannity turned his attention to the Peta person, he departed from the advertised topic of killer whales in captivity and instead wanted to talk about dogs and cats, hamburgers, and leather belts and shoes….. He seemed determined to use up the limited time on live television to paint the Peta spokesperson as a radical extremist.

    When Hannity wanted to give SeaWorld a pass on this issue because, hey, it involves only a very few captive orcas in California—I wanted to throw something at the television screen. They’re breeding them as fast as they can, Sean. Let’s also include the future generations of unborn orcas born in captivity if these captive breeding programs are allowed to continue indefinitely.

    I did not dislike Sean Hannity before this display of ignorance and rudeness.

    Going forward, if it can be predicted that the interviewer is going to be belligerent and unfair to the anti-captivity side of the debate, I think it might be best to not do the interview at all.

    Bridgette Pirtle said in the interview that she never felt unsafe while swimming with the whales at SeaWorld.

    I can imagine that Dawn Brancheau would have said the same thing. Look what happened to her.

  4. TheControversialVoice permalink
    April 14, 2014 2:06 pm

    This can be easily fixed by review of the product, policies around it, and the procedures to use it.

    Workers using it probably read the safety instructions, followed them properly, and overlooked the fact that it is heavier then air, and floated along the water. Unfortunately, it was learned the hard way, but i am sure the process has been reassessed and corrective action taken.

    that being said, on to the eyes…..

    “A number of former SeaWorld trainers I have spoken with about water quality have noted that captive killer whales routinely have mucus streaming from their eyes — an apparent protective mechanism that is considered “normal” at SeaWorld.”

    i am curious if that there is any form of pain. a mucus stream, doesn’t necessarily mean pain, and it is known to be a protective mechanism. It is a good point, but they are not going blind from it. They just naturally produce additional mucus to protect the eye. No negative impacts are noted from swimming in it.

    what needs to be looked at, is that safe ppm of the gas in the air, for a human, to protect the trainers, and the limits that would be safe for the Orca. Chances are, if the ppm meets our needs, it will be way under the Orcas danger zone.

  5. June 16, 2014 10:53 am

    I wonder if that is why they won’t even try to put live fish in there, as the chemicals would kill the fish.

    • Rob permalink
      June 16, 2014 12:01 pm

      I hadn’t thought of that. Would fish survive in the habitat of Shamu stadium or would they die from the chemicals?

  6. adora permalink
    June 27, 2014 8:59 pm

    I have mistakenly inhaled just a little bit of chlorine when adding in powder, tablet or liquid form to my pool. Try to avoid windy days but sometimes it gets in nose. Not pleasant feeling at all. Its disappointing that places that claim to know about cetaceans dont care about these obvious common sense dangers of chemicals. But then, its all about the show and money not about the mammals including us!

  7. Rob permalink
    June 30, 2014 8:02 pm

    SeaWorld needs a new team of forward-thinking executives who understand and recognize that what’s been done to Tilikum is wrong.

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